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2.5 out of 5 stars
The Good German [DVD] [2006]
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 16 November 2007
Filmed in an interesting 1950's film noir style with much to commend its imagery and editing, the biggest problem is the rather tenuous and shaky plotline. Geismer (George Clooney) arrives in a shattered post-war Berlin as a war correspondent covering the Potsdam conference. The driver assigned to him is double-dealing Tully (Toby Maguire), a nasty piece of work behind a smart ass facade, who is shacked up with Frau Brandt (Cate Blanchett) and deeply involved in the black market. It transpires that Clooney worked in Berlin before the war and had a relationship with Brandt, who worked for him as a stringer. Since then she has picked up some Nazi skeletons in her closet. So far so good - the promise of something interesting is upheld in the first few scenes. Unfortunately the longer the film progresses the more the plot falls apart as something not that interesting. The revelations just aren't that shocking. Frau Brandt's odd personality change from cold to warm is disturbing too. A Scottish pimp and barman adds a touch of the bizarre. I couldn't figure out whether this character was meant to be a Scot or was just a Scottish actor who couldn't do a German accent. Clooney seemed to know him from before, which makes you wonder what a Scot was doing in wartime Berlin. There is also a red herring Russian General who specialises in long, enigmatic stares and a sinister mute German policeman with a nice line in sitting menacingly in shadowy black cars. A sort of Raymond Chandler meets GI Joe kind of film. Watchable but ultimately unsatisfactory.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Shot to look exactly like a 1940s film, even down to Steven Soderbergh using 1940s lenses and vintage black and white cameras, but with added bad language and sporadic violence, The Good German unfortunately ends up feeling like one of his sporadic exercises in style over content. At its heart there's an intriguing story with a strong moral hook as George Clooney's correspondent for Stars and Stripes finds himself distracted from covering the Potsdam Conference in a devastated Germany by the murder of his black marketeering driver Tobey Maguire, which neither the Russians nor the Americans want investigated. Just to complicate matters, Maguire's girlfriend (who he hired out to lonely GIs) turns out to be not just Clooney's pre-war ex but the wife of the personal secretary to a Nazi rocket scientist and war criminal who both sides are very eager to get their hands on - but not for reasons they might want to get out. Sadly, it never really gels. Clooney is kept offstage for much of the first twenty minutes, only really entering the plot long after it's set in motion but suddenly forcing it into a dead stop as his backstory has to be explained and his character properly introduced, sidelining the mystery and taking too long to give a reason to care about him. More curiously, despite seeming the most Old Hollywood of modern leading men he doesn't quite look right in a classic setting, a problem shared by Cate Blanchett, who seems to be trying too hard to force Marlene Dietrich and Ingrid Bergman into her character and not managing to pull it off. It's a shame, because there's quite a lot that is good about The Good German, but it's concentrating too self-consciously on the surface trick of looking like an old movie but sounding like a modern one to ever really concentrate on the story and characters, which always seem to be much less of a priority. As a result, despite a good twist ending, by the time we get to the all-too-obviously Casablanca-inspired airport finale, we simply don't care whether Clooney and Dietrich get on the plane together or part. You'd be better off just watching Jacques Tourneur's Berlin Express instead.

No extras on the DVD.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 30 December 2007
I found the portrayal of Cate Blanchett to be the high point of this movie. Well shot in black and white with superb support from Toby Maguire, this was a consumate performance in an otherwise dull film. I am not a fan of George Clooney and his performance here left a lot to be desired. The movie raises a lot of questions of the morality of war and those who are involved in it from whatever perspective. It gives the lie to the black and white sides of a wartime experience and allows the viewer to examine the multitudeinous shades of grey.

Survival of the fittest is also a central concern and highlights some of the difficulties arriving at an ethical judgemt whenever our own survival is threatened. The backdrop to this whole story is the dirty business of politics and the dividing of the spoils as exemplified by the biblical story of the roman soldiers dividing up Jesus' gaments after his crucifixion.

Cate Blanchette reminds me of Jody Foster in some of her exceptional performances where one is drawn in to the story though that where the rest of the film is below par.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
***heavy plot synopsis***

Apparently there were not enough black and white films about WWII, so lets make another one. If you noticed they also kept the same bad "special effect" of showing a car in motion by moving the scenery around it. George Clooney, a reporter who doesn't write any stories or has any deadlines, returns to Berlin. His driver is Toby MaGuire who plays the bad Spiderman as a driver. He picks Clooney's pocket, works the black market, sells out his country, and just by co-incidence is the unlikeable boyfriend of Clooney's old German girlfriend, who happens to be the wife of a former Nazi. Got all that?

Her husband is dead, but both the Americans and Russians are still looking for him. Toby McGuire offers the "dead" German to the Russians for money. Toby turns up dead himself with only a million or so suspects. Now the story goes into a mild who-dun-it which doesn't last too long as Clooney investigates his death which leads to a twisting tale. Toby's killer confesses in an odd first person narration, something unique to this third person tale. This scene was out of place and not necessary as the murder is mentioned in the subsequent conversation. At this point the movie is no longer a who-dun-it, but has another plot twist (not totally unexpected). I suspect the real reason for the film, is the real life underlying political or philosophical aspects which questions committing an evil for the greater good.

Blanchett's character has almost robotic. Clooney gets beat up 4 times by my count and spends much of the movie with a silly band-aid on his ear.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 9 February 2013
How do you select a movie for viewing? Do you have a favorite director? A favorite actor? A favorite genre?

Recently a friend recommended the movie CHARLOTTE GRAY. When I ordered it, I noticed another "similar" movie THE GOOD GERMAN. I'm a big fan of Cate Blanchett's so this was a no-brainer decision: I ordered both movies. CHARLOTTE was a good movie...with Blanchett in the title role and with the magnificent Michael Gambon and the nice British actor who played Hannity in the PBS production of THE 39 STEPS...but THE GOOD GERMAN was better! Here's the plot synopsis from the subscription service:

A U.S. Army war correspondent is drawn into a deadly mystery in post-war Berlin as he seeks out his wartime mistress in this adaptation of author Joseph Kanon's best-selling novel. The war is over, and Jake Geismar (George Clooney) is an American journalist assigned the task of covering the peace in Berlin -- but he was once lovers with a mysterious woman named Lena Brandt (Cate Blanchett). Lena is a lady with many secrets to hide, however, and now that the fighting has ceased, she has every intention of burying her sins and escaping her dark past. As Jake searches for Lena in war-torn Berlin with the assistance of American Army motor pool driver Tully (Tobey Maguire), the complex web of deceit woven by the desperate woman soon leads all three into the black market, which could prove either the ticket to Lena's ultimate escape or the downfall of both her and her pursuers.

What a weak synopsis. Oh, the film starred Clooney, Blanchett, and Maguire. And the setting and time period is mentioned correctly as post-war Berlin. But the plot is so much more interesting and multi-layered than hunting for an old wartime lover! And it's filmed in black and white with all the costume and look of a 1945 old movie. The soundtrack is really awesome with its spikes of impending danger! (I learned later that director Steven Soderbergh...under the pseudonym Peter Andrews...used 1940s era lenses, sound-recording techniques, and a decidedly less-mobile camera for this spectacular effect.)

The story is very thrilling with lots of intrigue. George Clooney is perfectly cast as Jake Geisner, an American journalist in Berlin to cover the Potsdam summit. A young Tobey Maguire, as the Army driver assigned to transport Geisner, stole the first part of the movie playing a very manipulative soldier pimping for certain desperate German women and selling information to the Russians about them. Cate Blanchett is one of those desperate German women: she mysteriously and slightly underplays the part but is brilliant as usual.

And hopefully, you can determine who is the good German? The question nags me a bit. I think I know though.

I plan to read Joseph Kanon's 2001 novel of the same name soon. Kanon won a 1988 Edgar for best first mystery for LOS ALAMOS. I may have to go back and read his other books, too: THE PRODIGAL SPY (1998), ALIBI (2005) which won Hammett Prize, and STARDUST (2009).
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
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.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 28 November 2007
This is a good film, shot in black and white and very evocative of the immedate post war devestation of Berlin and the corruption that was going on between the so called Allies in the black market and the "exporting" of German scientists. All I would say is see the film and then read the book. If you do it the other way round you will be disappointed. Whilst all films are based on the book they come from and cannot always show the same detail or involved story line, this film takes too many liberties and consequently spoilt it for me.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
If Holly Martin in The Third Man just had to represent American innocence (with Orson Welles handling the flip side) the task facing the characters in this film is harder. It is as if Berlin had been occupied not by the Allied Powers but by Raymond Chandler. Everyone is up to something, no-one is innocent, the only common theme is that they all shoot, hit, kick or beat George Clooney. Clooney plays a journalist as a traffic accident waiting to happen. Despite getting beaten up a lot (including by Spiderman) he is still clever enough to find the woman who is trying to hide. Something the US seem unable to do. Of course he has a Berlin bartender (with a Scots accent) who he meets by chance and thereafter becomes his plot sonic screwdriver.

The use of black and white gives the film a certain feel, as does the constant theme that all Germans knew everything about the Holocaust.

It desperately needed some zither music.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Just about able to give this the 4 stars because i thought some of the previous reviews were a bit harsh. This is a complex film and at times a bit muddled - certainly lacks the crystal clarity of its inspirations - Casablanca and Third Man. However the acting is very good all round and there's an authentic feel to the scenes and location. The plot could be better resolved, there are a lot of complex personal, nationalistic, moral and political issues - the aftermath of WWW2 in a ruined Berlin, war crimes, national guilt and reparation, the beginnings of the Cold War, economics, weapons and industrial secrets, black market gangsterism and the holocaust. The motives of each of the characters are far from straightforward and Soderbergh ultimately fails to keep the action together in a coherently satisfying whole. Maybe it's because the relationship between Clooney/Blanchette is not properly resolved. Nevertheless i'd recommend you watch it - Blanchette's character is complex and fascinating if more edgy than Ingrid Bergmann - certainly comparisons with Chinatown's Faye Dunawaye are closer - ultimately it's a story about betrayal so a happy ending was unlikely. Thought provoking but flawed.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 2 September 2011
The story's not only all over the place, it's clumsily told. Voice-overs appear out of nowhere to tip the audience off about plot points that a good thriller would have allowed action to reveal. Cluny's reporter regales other characters with conclusions that he couldn't possibly have drawn from the available evidence. Confrontations are contrived rather than developing naturally out of the story-structure. The whole thing smacks of an all-too-common philosophy: 'run the story fast enough and the audience won't see the holes'. As pastiche, or 'homage' I just found it irritating - lots of peculiar camera angles for no other reason than that Orson Wells used them, so much shadow it becomes a joke, a climax pointlessly staged during a parade, and a Dakota on a runway... and you know the only reason for that. All it did for me was to illustrate how brilliant many of those real old film noirs and forties thrillers are. And that Cate Blanchett can rise above anything - almost.
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