The Good German (2006)
An American journalist arrives in Berlin just after the end of World War Two. He becomes involved in a murder mystery surrounding a dead GI who washes up at a lakeside mansion during the Potsdam negotiations between the Allied powers. Soon his investigation connects with his search for his married pre-war German lover.
The Good German is a good noir film, that tries to be like the old noir films, instead of only being inspired by them. The few touches that were not possible then (sexual scenes and swearing) are understandable, though they are also obvious clues that the movie is quite modern.I have not read the book of which this is based, but it does seem to be a story that lends itself perfectly to the film genre. Cate Blanchett's character is a great femme fatale, Clooney's journalist great as the wounded man against everyone, etc. And the world war 2 backdrop lends itself fine, as it is the era where the noir movies were made. So as a film noir project, this is a good one.The story itself is at times interesting, but I often found myself losing a bit interest. Much of the actual investigating happens off screen, which is it bad, as it was the most fun.
I was surely not thrilled in the movie by the story, by the acting, and certainly by the flow of the events. It seemed to me like a remake of The Third Man where the suspense was at a much higher level. Most of what happens there happens here as well without any surprise. I cannot even imagine this not being evident to the director. Maybe George Clooney factor was here due to his all movie long glances. He looks like he forgot the line he was supposed to say and the way long mysticism trying to be created by Blanchet. Anyway I was expecting something better. Just had to live through with it until the end. Could have made more of my Sunday evening by watching something else.
A book, a movie and the good German, who is it, between Casablanca, The Man in Between and Germany anno zero. Berlin, July, 1945. Journalist Jake Geismer arrives to cover the Potsdam conference, issued a captain's uniform for easier passage. He also wants to find Lena, now a prostitute desperate to get out of Berlin. He discovers that the driver he's assigned, Corporal Tully, is Lena's keeper. As everyone, she too has something to sell. In exchange a 'Persilschein' to get out of Berlin. It is her (hidden) dead husband, the scientist Emil Brandt, a member in the Bettman/von Braun, who has the evidence of what happened at Dora. He the valuable, dangerous witness, valuable for the Russian and American but also dangerous. The story in the movie is told by Tully, Jake and by Lena, the desperate Jewish wife of a former SS officer. She killed Tully; he came too near the truth. Her plan is to leave Berlin without her SS-husband. At one point she remind Jake of her past: "I'm a Nzi myself. It's true Heil Hitler. No, not a Nazi. None of us. Just something to join, like a sport club. How could you love someone for all those years and not know them? Did you ever love a Nazi? How about a Jew. A Nazi and a Jew both, better yet. I survived." "What happened to the rest of the family?" Jake asks. "They got send to the camps. Everyone. My mother, uncles, cousins. Everyone dead. As the wife of a SS-man I was exempt. Jewess is not a Jew. That's the way they used to put it. And at the end no one was exempt." In the ending scene, à la Casablanca she tells him: "There where not so many. You are right. So when they caught me, I turned that to my advantage. I used the skills you taught me. When I worked for you, for the newspaper. Watch, observe. The stupid risks they would take. Lunch at Aschinger's. Just to remind themselves they where still human. I found 12. I turned over 12 people over to the Gestapo. That's how I survived. It was all to survive. Everything. Now you know the last piece in your puzzle." Everybody was, is still and will be involved of what Berlin happens.Greed reach for a part of the cake. The critics are not good. The reason? Perhaps that not only the scapegoat Germany for the ununderstandable wound Auschwitz forced everybody to be part of skandalon. The Judenrat, the lenabrandts as the 'greifers', the men behind Hitler (not to bomb the railway lines to Auschwitz). After WW II, Germany at the edge of suicide the survivors survive by whatever they can reach at. Not to forget Emil in Germanny anno zero, helping his father, the waste-over, to die. Himself committing suicide. He, the German, had not as Erich in the book, a greiffers child, a Jake and Lena and a Dr Rosen. In the center of 'Me, myself & I' the heroine of temps noir, femme fatale Lena Brandt, surviving. Why this and not the books ending?
In the past ten years or so Steven Soderbergh has become a director who does what he wants, when he wants. He makes the film he wants to make and he does it exactly how he feels it needs to be done, no matter how unorthodox or inconvenient. In 2004 he made Ocean's Twelve, the sequel to one of his biggest blockbuster successes. Then in 2005 he made the film Bubble, a small independently released film with no professional actors. Then in 2006 he picks his stars back up and makes The Good German with George Clooney and Cate Blanchett. And yet he does this film in a completely unconditional way that somewhat negates the star power that the film has.The Good German is about an army general who is visiting Berlin shortly after World War II. What begins as a routine mission quickly becomes a complicated murder mystery involving his mistress and his driver. The plot of the film is straightforward enough, but what makes this film different is the significant style choices that Soderbergh makes. The Good German is essentially an homage to classic film noir and war time thrillers. Soderbergh does everything in his power to make this film seem as if it were made in the 40's or 50's and if it didn't have all of the big names attached to it I might believe it really was that old. Sadly, this film goes all the way for style, and leaves behind all of its substance. Thus, after we become acquainted with the film's style we are left to watch a dull and hollow story unfold, never becoming more than a typical Hollywood junk film trying to be something it's not.The Good German is a film that deserves all the style points it gets. I commend Soderbergh for his efforts in making this pastiche film with the nuances he wanted. He got it just right, but to the extent where it takes away from everything else about the film (i.e. the story). This is a story that goes nowhere and is not interesting or compelling in the slightest. It's a mystery without mystery. I never found myself excited about finding out the answers to the questions the film raises. It is sloppy in its delivery of a hard hitting story and lazy in the way it develops said story. I tried my best to get into the film towards the beginning, but quickly found myself losing interest. Also, the film never improves. It's climax is terribly underwhelming and its conclusion is completely forgettable. From start to finish The Good German is all style and no substance.If you're a Soderbergh fan I might recommend this if you truly care about seeing everything the man has ever done. If you're a mild fan then there are plenty of other films from him that you should check out. This is definitely way towards the bottom in my Soderbergh recommendation list. Not including the film's acute style, it's easily one of his poorest efforts.