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Good [DVD]
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VINE VOICEon 6 March 2010
All evil needs... is for Good men to do nothing, says the tagline on the cover of this DVD. The set up is thus tantalising, promising a tale of moral murkiness, a `what if..' situation to challenge the viewer. Alas, it fails to deliver. We meet John Halder, a literature professor in 1930's Germany. A man struggling with a slightly loopy wife, mother with severe dementia, and a country which is burning the books he loves as it slides inexorably deeper into Fascism. As a decent man, how will he react to these circumstances? Well, by keeping the status quo at work, and seeking refuge in the beautiful arms of one of his students, as well as frequent beer drinking sessions with his best buddy, a Jewish psychoanalyst played by Jason Isaacs. The next step down the path of moral murkitude he takes sees him coerced into joining the Nazi party, due to a paper on euthanasia he has written. The stresses this puts on his relationship with his best friend, a Jew, is perhaps the best played segment, with Jason Isaacs probably the best thing in the movie. Of course, events continue to deteriorate and the little choices made at the start begin to have monumental effects on the lives of those around him, until in the end, he is faced with the full horror of what he has done - or rather, what he failed to do. It could all certainly be fascinating, and the period feel of the movie is fine, the acting up to scratch... and yet, Mortensen plays the character in such an ambiguous way, as such a weak man, that by the time he faces the realisation of what he has done - it is not only too late for him to do anything, but too late for us the audience to care much about it. Frankly a movie about the Nazi's treatment of the Jews and other minorities which leaves us not caring, has fundamentally failed in its objective. Oddly, just the idea behind the movie makes you think and ponder more than you do by the time the movie has finished - the movie really adds nothing to the debate, failing for all its attention on the details of his life, to get under the character's skin and thus make the viewer care.
All in all, a movie that fails to live up to its title, despite some interesting ideas and performances. My advice? There are plenty of other movies or novels on the topic out there.. this one, while not bad, is certainly not essential viewing.
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on 27 July 2010
How can you make a dull film out of Hitler's rise to power, kristallnacht and an unwilling German's descent into the SS and his final arrival at a concentration camp? Watch `Good' and find out.

I thought that having Viggo Mortensen in the lead would give the lead character depth and, if not sympathy, at least understanding, but no. His performance is mannered and superficial. Here is a college professor who extols `Jewish' literature (Proust) to empty lecture theatres, whose best friend is Jewish, but who then acts like Homer Simpson (though Homer is far more charismatic) for the next nine years from 1933-1942, not noticing anything, except for having an occasional bout of conscience, which seems to centre on Jewish made cheesecake, while he gradually makes his way up 'the party' ladder.

Here is a theatrical play, turned into a theatrical film, full of proscenium arch flatness; devices that don't work, like the Dennis Potterish fantasy song sequences, (only in this case they have no flair and no production values); a truly deadly and episodic kitchen sink drama featuring a depressed wife and a senile mother, which would verge on the laughable if it weren't so embarrassing; even the music is intrusive. A score of cod-Nazi marching tunes, which, I assume, is supposed to counterpoint the action rather than to complement it, but it doesn't work.

So where in all this mish-mash does the director's centre of attention lie, after all he must have some interest in the production? Well, it seems to rest on the body (but not the mind) of Jodie Whittaker who plays our hero's mistress. The camera lingers lovingly on her silkily draped reclining figure or her perfectly coiffured head. The relevance to the overall story of this is nil, except to unsubtly (like Cecil B. DeMille used to do, but he did it with style) point up the characters decline from family man to whoring Nazi.

I have watched Sophie Scholl, Napola, Europa Europa, The Pianist, Downfall, A Beautiful Life, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and many other films set in and around the `Nazi' period. Choose anyone of them above this.
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on 19 November 2010
I bought this movie primarily because I am a big Viggo Mortensen fan, and the film delighted me and also surprised me in many ways.

It is like watching a play rather than a movie, as so much of the content is in the dialogue and in the relationship between the character Viggo plays and his friend played by Jason Isaacs - who is absolutely excellent. It is chilling to see how someone who is intrinsically 'good' can be coerced and threatened, by a regime such as the rising National Socialist part in Germany, into taking actions which he cannot really justify or understand. It is a fascinating study of the struggle between a man's conscience and his fear for the safety of himself and his family.

It made me think about what fear does to a person, and to a nation when they are in the grip of dictatorship, and how incredibly brave people can be when they do take a stand and often sacrifice their lives. It's beautifully acted, and paced but not for anyone who is looking for a war film or an action film.
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on 24 September 2009
Contrived, inaccurate rubbish. Has anyone who as eyes or ears in their head studied anything about the rise of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust really watched this and thought it contributed anything meaningful to the debate?? To say this is Nazi Germany/Holocaust by Dallas/Dynasty is putting it mildly. If you want to be educated and informed watch 'Life is Beautiful' not this rubbish.
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VINE VOICEon 8 February 2016
I won't say it's the best movie about Nazi Germany that I've ever seen but I think it's a strikingly good film. Leonard Maltin found it ultimately unsatisfying - I think for once he missed the point. There can be no Hollywood style catharsis and resolution in a truthful movie about this topic - no reconciliation with the jewish friend whom he let down, no rebellion against the regime. As the son of a jewish refugee, I found it sincere in its efforts to portray an ordinary, good man who is gradually forced to work for the Nazis, embrace the poisoned creed, simultaneously seduced away from his talented pianist wife by a girl whose willingness to follow the party line is simple and unsophisticated. He has ethical doubts,but they really mean nothing - and at that time his dilemma must have been shared by many thousands. There is no way of turning back the tide or of influencing events, leaving one with the choice of doing well in one's career or being passed over for promotion in favour of others. The closing scene, of the little camp orchestra playing Mahler, is both realistic and moving. I suppose if I have a criticism it is that the assigning to him of one challenge after another - an honorary role in the Nazi party leading eventually to helping to forcibly evict jews from their apartments and into lorries, and eventually to a supervisory function in the running of concentration camps, is a little artificial. But I think that dramatic licence is necessary.

I was glad that there was no superfluous sentiment or eroticism. Movies about the holocaust which include naked ladies are a particular dislike of mine. Mortensen plays his part in a rather robotic, unemotional way to signify that it's reality we're seeing, not Hollywood - and by the end, he's lost every human being that ever loved him, subtly and barely noticed by the viewer. I think the director pitched it very well. It may be a film that repays viewing a second time.
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on 24 March 2010
This is the most powerful, thought provoking and moving pieces that I have viewed in a long while. It asks the question that so many of us have posed namely how could Nazi Germany ever have flourished - surely the vast majority of the German population was made up of thoughful,kind, people - all of whom could have been described as being, essentially, good?

The main character, John Halder, is played by Viggo Mortenson. Halder is a decent sort, an academic whose mother is desperately ill. He takes her in to his home to care for her, putting himself, his wife and marriage under terrible pressure. To vent some of this pressure he writes a novel. In this novel a husband, faced with a sick wife who is beyond all medical help, assists her, out of compassion, to commit suicide. The novel, of limited interest at the time of publication, is seized upon by the Nazi Party as a fine instrument of propaganda to promote its own long term goal of genetic cleansing. Halder is coopted into assisting and in time even into joining the Nazi Party. He does so in the naif belief that he can keep Nazi ideology at arm's length and remain unpolluted by it, perhaps even helping to calm and modify Nazi policies.

After all, he tells himself, he is doing nothing. Instead of this he ,in despite of himself ,is forced to extend and deepen the nature of his cooperation becoming an integral and essential part of the widening Nazi horror. One small extra step of cooperation is taken, time after time, with Halder, on every occaision telling himself that he is doing nothing.The film is well scripted and brilliantly staged and shot.

The background music has been skillfully chosen and is well played,not drowning out the dialogue as in certain films. The supporting cast is replete with first rate actors -Jason Isaacs, Jodie Whittaker, Gemma Jones - all of whom play their parts to perfection. The mystery at the rotten heart of Nazi Germany may remain unanswered but the film does at least suggest a partial explanation to the question of how could all - indeed any of this- have happened- namely: in order for evil to succeed it is only necessary for one thing to occur and that is for good men to do nothing.
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VINE VOICEon 19 June 2009
John Halder (Viggo Mortenson) is a respected professor of literature, who once wrote a novel about compassionate euthanasia. He now juggles his mother suffering from TB and dementia, his neurotic piano-playing wife, 2 boisterous children, a female student he's very attracted to, book burning, and Proust being eliminated from his curriculum. He regularly escapes life for beer-fuelled heart-to-hearts with his friend, Jewish psychoanalyst Maurice (Jason Isaacs), whose early concern over Hitler is brushed aside: "Hitler's a joke... he'll never last."

When Hitler's chancellor summons Halder to write a report on the "case for an enlightened approach to mercy death on the grounds of humanity" there's only one problem... Halder isn't a member of the party. In a sudden sweep, Halder becomes an "honorary" member of the SS, with all its subsequent privileges, separates from his wife, and begins a new and successful life - albeit at the expense of his friend, and his conscience. As Hitler's Germany takes shape, Maurice's situation becomes increasingly unstable, and when he finally comes begging for help to leave the country, Halder is placed in an impossible position.

The movie, based on a stage play by C P Taylor, moves slowly, as Halder is assimilated into the role of unwilling Nazi; and though he never stops doing "good", he finds himself on dangerous, ethically ambiguous ground, as he is forced to weigh up his friendship with Maurice against his own survival. The climax of the movie has a harrowing, nightmarish quality, as Halder's conscience, which inserts itself very occasionally in the form of music, as members of the cast break out in fragments of song (reminiscent of Dancer in the Dark), leads him to face the consequences of his decisions.

Mortenson, ever serious and versatile, plays his role with excellent subtlety, letting his character do the talking. The mainly British supporting cast, headed by Isaacs indignant with rage, are also convincing in a way that foregrounds the bleak reality of their respective situations. 1930s Germany is authentically reproduced visually, though not in the language, which will always be a point of contention for moviemakers and movie viewers alike.

Good is a movie that asks its audience to consider notions of goodness and complicity, and how far, by doing nothing against the system, Halder has in fact allowed the evil regime to establish itself and flourish. This isn't an original idea, by any means, but watching it happen still makes for a very sobering viewing experience.
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on 5 August 2012
This story has an interesting premise and it takes place in a dramatic setting. I was looking forward to this film, but it had a superficial, perfunctory feeling and it was disappointing.

It was as if the cast weren't fully inhabiting their roles, as if their true feelings weren't engaged. Despite good photography, most of the scenes lacked dramatic credibility. I was ungripped and unconvinced by most of what I was watching.

The central role is played by Viggo Mortensen who is an interesting personality, but he looks miscast and out of sympathy with the part he is playing. You can't blame him- this is a noticeably ambiguous part, with unheroic characteristics. Mortensen clearly does not do 'stodgy' or unheroic, and is uncomfortable with it.

The role is a well-intentioned man with a vacuum at his centre, he just drifts along, he's switched-off. And yet at the same time he is meant to be a creative writer! Mortensen regrettably looks like a man of vigour who is pretending to be a man without it.

The actor's task is to suggest what lies inside this enigmatic man, explain him, or at least suggest some inner motives or conflicts. For this viewer, Mortensen (or his Director) wasn't really the man for this job, and consequently the film didn't really work.
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on 30 December 2010
In the past decade, there have been many high quality films that have not registered on the radar of those people with an affinity for all things cinematic: The Good Sheppard - a deeply engaging docu-film about the formation of the CIA at its activities from the start of World War Two to the mid-60s; the Swedish crime drama The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo which puts an nice non-gore fest spin back into the genre (something which many people have been asking for many years); and finally this film, with it's simple title 'Good'.

The reason I like this film, is the same reason I like The Good Sheppard: it engages your mind, and gives you a new look at a period in history. Today's film world is dominated by high-octane pap that has something exploding every 5 seconds - (a knee-jerk reaction to audience demands?) All none-action films with directors that have read `word books' are eclipsed by this lower brain form of entertainment, and as a result these types of films are only in the cinema for same amount of time as it takes to breathe out (after breathing in..).

"Good" gives you a look at how the inherently insular nature of National Socialism changed the vast majority of Germans into robots that could be easily manipulated by Hitler and his minions. It centres on a single character and how his excellent writing abilities, and benevolent views on euthanasia,, help to further support the Reich's propaganda machine (something he didn't aim to do when he originally wrote his books). The repercussions of this really do bring home the manipulative force that the NSDA was, and shows how it, like a virus, attempted to infect everyone in Germany.

This is a great piece of cinema for those who want a nice alternative to the `mouth-breather' movies that populate our billboards!
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on 28 January 2010
This is a simply outstanding film. I saw it when it first came out on the cinema and had to make a huge effort to do so, seeing as it had such limited cinema release but it was well worth the effort. It is a carefully and skillfully made film that manages to evoke some of the feeling that was prevalent in 1930s Germany and that made the rise of National Socialism possible. It was refreshing in that all the characters were much more fully rounded than you normally see in dramas dealing with the same period and thereby make the drama all the more worthy. There are key moments in Good that are almost akin to poetry on film. It will be difficult to forget such scenes as the one where John discusses with Maurice the direction their country is heading and the resultant moral struggle John feels within himself. The script in this scene shows a soul fighting with itself. This is superbly contrasted with the location the conversation is taking place in - a beautiful summer's day in a lakeside park. Such attention to detail as swastika banners fluttering in the wind over the parks' kiosks not only add realism but brings home the constant presence of the National Socialist state within the lives of its citizens. The final scene is a chilling statement of what Halder's choices have brought him to. A thoughtful, beautifully rendered film.
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