Soderbergh’s thriller is dark and disorderly
The Good German (15) Directed by Steven Soderbergh Starring George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire, Beau Bridges, Tony Curran. 106 mins Three star rating Director Steven Soderbergh seems to choose his projects as dares – attempting to bring highb
The Good German (15) Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Starring George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire, Beau Bridges, Tony Curran. 106 mins
Three star rating
Director Steven Soderbergh seems to choose his projects as dares - attempting to bring highbrow sci-fi to the multiplexes of North America with Solaris, making another Ocean's Eleven film because someone said it was the worst possible thing he could do at this point in his career.
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Now he's made a thriller set in 1945 in the style of the period and largely limiting himself to the methods of the time. Soderbergh's commitment to this conceit is considerable. Shot in black and white, the titles, the music and camera set-ups are all authentic. Only the famous faces, the language and an
all-encompassing cynicism born of the 60-year perspective mark it as not being a noir contemporary of The Third Man. Imagine a scene on top of a Ferris wheel with Holly Martins telling Harry Lime where he can shove his effing cuckoo clocks and you'll have some idea of what to expect.
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While the war continued in the Pacific in the summer of 1945, the allied leaders Stalin, Truman and Churchill gathered in Berlin for the Potsdam Peace Conference, dividing up the spoils of the last war while positioning themselves for the next one. Also arriving is correspondent Jake Geismer (Clooney), hoping to relocate his pre-war love Lena Brandt (Blanchett). When he does, she's with new boyfriend Tully (Maguire) a golly gosh GI who sees himself as a black market operator.
A murder plunges us into an over-abundant plot that takes in Nazi scientists, evil commies, duplicitous Americans and
low-life black marketeers. In adapting Joseph Kanon's novel, scriptwriter Paul Attansio's main problem is finding an orderly way to get all that plot out. Often the narrative seems to involve nothing more than Clooney repeatedly walking into rooms and getting jumped on by mystery assailants. It tries to cram in too many twists and, when the final revelation of Lena's big secret arrives, it has no impact.
The cast though is excellent. Clooney is such a natural born movie star you could drop him into any era of film-making and he'd thrive, while Maguire does well in a part that calls for a cocktail of naivety and ruthlessness without ever letting the audience in on how many measures of each. Casting Blanchett as a Marlene Dietrich-style dark lady with secrets really ought to be a non-starter but she pulls it off.
I imagine the film will ultimately be categorised as one of Soderbergh's interesting failures. But the novelty of the approach and quality cast make it worth a look.