Imagine Casablanca meets the Third Man, filmed (of course) in black and white, and starring Cate Blanchett and George Clooney acting against type. That's pretty much what you get with the Good German; post-conflict noir set in the ruins of Germany where the Americans, Soviets, French and British compete ferociously to round up German scientists.
The Good German is occasionally brutal, often sad and it frequently shows its lead characters in a harsh light. Steven Soderbergh has filmed with an uncompromising lens which refuses to flatter even its most beautiful stars -- you can believe the grit, grime and degradation of the ruined German city and its inhabitents.
Clooney takes on another flawed character, a hero with feet of clay who takes huge risks for the woman he once loved. Tobey (Spiderman) Maguire shows up only for a while. Cate Blanchette brilliantly portrays a dangerous, damaged, no-longer-beautiful woman. The language is full-on, often shockingly so.
Yet despite all this good stuff and the strong moral message of the film, it fizzles out a bit right at the end. Afterwards you're left with a 'so?' feeling, almost as if Soderbergh didn't quite want to ram his message home 100%. This makes the Good German very hard to pin down; it's wonderfully constructed and rewarding to watch, but doesn't quite live up to the masterpieces which it seeks to emulate. If you enjoyed Solaris, though, then it should hit all the right buttons.
Ideal for a rental.