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STUDIO: Warner Home Video
RUNNING TIME: 107 Minutes
Casablanca for a more pessimistic age.
George “The Peacemaker” Clooney, Tobey “The Spiderman” Maguire, Cate “The Veronica Guerin” Blanchett
What fanboys wished they got out of a dark Spiderman.
"The Cider House RULES!"
Journalist Jake Geismar (Clooney) returns to Berlin to cover the Potsdam conference in a supposedly peaceful Berlin. However, his assigned driver (Maguire) seems to be something of a sadist with ties to Geismar’s ex-flame Lena (Blanchett). Complications ensue, a body washes up at the shore of Potsdam, and Geismar is thrust into a situation he can’t get out of involving Nazi sympathizers, missing rocket scientists and DVD copies of King’s Ransom. What impressed Jake most was Sergeant First Class Winslow’s ability to drive without his hands.
Journalist Jake Geismar (Clooney) returns to Berlin to cover the Potsdam conference in a supposedly peaceful Berlin. However, his assigned driver (Maguire) seems to be something of a sadist with ties to Geismar’s ex-flame Lena (Blanchett). Complications ensue, a body washes up at the shore of Potsdam, and Geismar is thrust into a situation he can’t get out of involving Nazi sympathizers, missing rocket scientists and DVD copies of King’s Ransom.
What impressed Jake most was Sergeant First Class Winslow’s ability to drive without his hands.
Steven Soderbergh’s recent career trajectory would suggest that he’s gone the way of style over substance (although, it could be argued that the majority of his oeuvre consists of formal experimentations with varied degrees of success) and for many The Good German falls into that realm. It’s a modern take on noir (they get to use cuss words – think “Here’s lookin’ at you, fuckface”) using the equipment of that age of filmmaking with all of the constraints that it implies.
Folks gathered for miles around to bear witness to the annual Running of the Dinklage.
By the nature of the script you’re never really given enough time with any of the particular characters to develop an emotional bond to them, although Maguire acquits himself quite nicely as the least sympathetic character in the picture, nailing the part of a young army driver who’s all bluff and gusto. He basically carries the film through its first act on his shoulders, and the film suffers a bit when he’s not in it. I think perhaps the main reason Clooney doesn’t resonate so strongly in this picture is that he’s playing well against the type of Clooney we’re used to seeing, he’s constantly behind the eight ball in this picture never in control of the situation. He’s heroic, but he’s also blind to the reality of what’s going on right until the very end of the film. I think his performance was good and true to the reality of a character who’s essentially a dupe, but perhaps by virtue of what I mentioned above or because the script is split into three acts that follow each character to the exclusion of the others (which is helpful in the way of making the mystery more obtuse for the viewer, not so much in the way of creating characters for the audience to connect with) his performance is seen as somewhat lacking. Blanchett is also good as the ingenueyish piece of the puzzle, suitably aping Ingrid Bergman while at the same time creating a much more emotionally destroyed human being.
But as is the case with most of the current Soderbergh output, you’re there for the style and editing mastery on display, and he really doesn’t disappoint. Even with using the cumbersome material of the era he’s emulating, he manages to infuse his style on the proceedings (beautiful shots evocative of films past as well also litter the film). The editing here is truly something special, as he’s able to blend stock footage with his film in a rather clean and meaningful way, while also staging numerous action sequences almost entirely through the editing process (there isn’t scads of camera movement here). For that reason alone (and Maguire’s entertaining expectation-defying performance) I would recommend checking this film out.
Now seems like the right time for film noir to make something of a comeback in American cinema, with disillusionment and cynicism running rampant through certain circles. However, with this being the age of irony, such honest and straightforward behavior might not compute with a modern audience. Especially the film’s ending, which turns the romantic and politically empowering ending of Casablanca into something much different, feels like the right move to make given the current political climate. Instead of leaving the film feeling energized, you feel disillusioned, which is pretty apt considering the way I feel looking through the AP newswire as of late. Overall, I wouldn’t consider this the biggest disappointment of Soderbergh’s career (Full Frontal being terrible takes that honor (although David Hyde Pierce is acquitted of any wrongdoing there)), but it’s definitely not a masterwork or an immensely involving motion picture. It’s a well-shot, well-edited, competently (often well) acted motion picture, which is right about where you’d expect Soderbergh movies nowadays.
"George, we’ll always have Red Surf."
The cover art is decent although I would have preferred they stuck to the poster art completely in this case. The film looks great (the back cover states the 1.33:1 aspect ratio is preserving the original theatrical exhibition, but there’s the pan-and-scan “formatted to fit your screen” message before the film starts; having seen it in theaters, my verdict is if there was any cropping done it was minimal to the point where I can’t see any harm having been done) and has a decent 5.1 audio track to boot. In terms of extras, you get nothing and you fucking like it, you jerk.
6.5 out of 10