The Good German (2006)

Genres - Mystery, Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Period Film, War Drama  |   Release Date - Dec 15, 2006 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 105 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Derek Armstrong

If Steven Soderbergh's career can be cleanly divided between studio crowd pleasers (the Ocean's movies) and experimental arthouse films (Bubble), then The Good German may just fall somewhere in the middle. It's budgeted like the former, and it does star George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, and Tobey Maguire. But it isn't nearly whimsical enough to please crowds, nor is it trying to. Considering the effort involved in making it look like an actual film from the 1940s, it feels more akin in spirit to one of Soderbergh's passion projects. Unfortunately, while The Good German is trying to so hard to occupy the same thematic and technical space as Casablanca -- the climactic scene even takes place on an airport tarmac -- Paul Attanasio's script comes up short of that admittedly high standard. The story itself is perfectly adequate without being memorable. There are double crosses, unlikely character relationships, secret agendas, and moral quandaries, but we're never invested enough to cheer the characters, any more than we'd cheer the pieces in a chess game between strangers. The actors all competently execute what's expected of them, but the melodrama of those wartime films feels somewhat anachronistic in their hands. At the same time, the characters are also cold, distant. Humphrey Bogart may have spoken in clipped sentences and layered himself in emotional armor, but he still managed to effortlessly earn our sympathies. Given these dramatic shortcomings, the film's technical achievements are a pretty hollow victory for Soderbergh.