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Review: The Good German

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posted on Jul, 13 2007 @ 12:41 PM

Review: The Good German

Well, it's been a while since my last review. I'd actually quite forgotten about my goal to review one movie a week due to real-life events, but here goes... continuing with the theme of lesser-seen movies, we examine The Good German, a modern post WWII film noir starring George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, and Tobey Maguire.

The Breakdown

GENRE: Film Noir / Suspense
PLATFORM: Black and White Motion Picture, Period Lenses.
STARS: George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, and Tobey Maguire.
LOVE IT: Fans of Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon
HATE IT: Blockbuster-buffs and fans of Spider-Man
ACTING: Superb for Clooney and Blanchett, Inferior for Tobey.
MUSIC: 100% on target for a Film Noir.
WARNINGS: One brief female frontal nudity scene, and many F-bombs.
SCORE: 9/10 for film-noir fans, 4/10 for everyone else.
TEASER: Clooney plays a reporter in post-WWII Berlin investigating the death of his assigned driver and the mysterious re-appearance of an old lover.

The Full Review

The most important factor in deciding whether or not to watch this movie is one's opinion of film noir. Film noir is, in a nutshell, a dark crime drama movie, where the protagonist is a John Everyman, usually a reporter, cop, or PI, and generally involves some dame who was a past love interest and somehow tied into the bad guys, and it usually has a very bittersweet ending. Film noir concentrates almost exclusively on cinematic angles and dialogue. The action scenes are usually very muted, most of the action occurs off-camera, and the main character is usually -not- a hero, but rather a guy who can take a lot of kicks and punches and doggedly continues the investigation when the bad guys leave after beating him up. In essence Film Noir is the antithesis of the Blockbuster.

Second to enjoying the film is the complete disregard of Tobey Maguire in the film. Tobey lacks even the limited acting range of Jim Carrey (whom I enjoy immensely, but let's face it, the man's no James Earl Jones).

Tobey plays a jerk in love with a prostitute (Cate), who happens to be the driver for a news reporter (George). While it might be considered a spoiler that Tobey is mysteriously murdered in the first quarter of the flick, once you see how awful Tobey's acting abilities are in the movie, this little fact will be your only incentive to keep watching.

Once the bothersome Tobey is out of the way, the real movie begins. The Good German reveals a dark, gritty underworld, black-markets, and depressed economy in the war-ravaged Berlin after the fall of the Nazis. America was already gearing up for war with the Russians before Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin could even meet to divvy up the world. In this tense setting, Clooney is sent, presumably to cover the meeting, but instead finds his driver murdered in the process of trying to smuggle out his prostitute girlfriend. The rest of the movie is a chase to find out why, as well as the secrets behind his ex-lover and those giving chase to her.

As far as film noir goes, it was spot-on. Clooney and Blanchett are two of the only actors I can think of in modern times who could pull off the Film Noir acting style. Huge props to both, though it could be argued that Clooney wasn't actually acting. Blanchett's studies of Ingrid Bergman really paid off, however.

The movie itself was shot using period lenses with only the materials available for shooting a movie in 1945. Genuine news radio and tv broadcasts tie the film together with re-enactments of actual events. It's as much a slice of history as it is a mystery drama. The entire feel of the film is as if it were from 1945, including the use of a projection screen behind the car while driving.

The music would nowadays be considered tinny, off-color, and in some cases even inappropriately timed and off-key. For a film noir, it was perfect. It added to the entire effect the director was obviously trying to achieve; that of a movie made long ago in a long-forgotten but influential era. It was the perfect homage.

Don't approach this film expecting anything other than a bittersweet story of two ships passing in the night. The entire thing is a cliche, but it's such a well-done cliche that it's like seeing the original product.

If only Tobey hadn't been chosen. Spider-Man was awful, I cannot stress that enough. His pathetic attempt to play a tough guy was about as convincing as Sylvester Stallone trying to play Ghandi. I don't know what director Steven Soderbergh could have been thinking, except maybe that Maguire would be a hot property because of the film's proximity to Spider-Man, but the gamble was a poor one, and I expected better of Soderbergh. When Don-Frickin-Knotts manages to out-act someone (Pleasantville), you don't use the person he out-acted, especially in a film style that focuses 100% on acting ability.

In essence, I have to take off an entire point for Tobey's participation. This gives the film a 9/10 if you are a fan of film noir, and a 4/10 if not.

posted on Jul, 13 2007 @ 12:51 PM
I'd forgotten all about this one, but after this review, it looks like one I need to see. Last Clooney flick I saw was Syriana, which was pretty good.

Still haven't seen The Good Shepherd either, although it's on my list. (hint, hint)

posted on Jul, 14 2007 @ 07:32 AM
The only good german is a...

Bad monkey! Back in your box!

Good review. I think it's out on VCD/DVD over here now. I'll keep em peeled!

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