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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 14, 2007
Despite what other reviewers said, including those in the local newspaper, I found this mystery entertaining. I went with somewhat lowered expectations.

It is wonderous, if only for the masterful black and white photography. There is something deeply mysterious about highlighted cigarette smoke in a dark room. See the Carroll Reed/Orson Wells classic "The Third Man" & "Casablanca" before seeing this movie, this borrows heavily from both. Full of dirt and bombed out rubble, like The Third Man. The Third Man? Casablanca ? #57 & #2 on American Film Institute's List: Top 100 Greatest Movies? For those who never see anything over 20 years old, movies worth seeing!

Director Soderbergh didn't do a period piece, he did a real authentic forties movies with old cameras and old filming techniques. Orson Wells once said words to the effect that "Did you ever see a good dramatic performance in a color film? All the really good performances are in black and white, Color really distracts..." This is a good example of what artistic black and white can do.

Goegrge Clooney plays Jake, (the Holly Martins type character), searching for Lena (like Anna) an old friend in post WWII Berlin, who used to be a reporter and is now a prostitute. Lena seems to be a minor character at first. I won't reveal more of the plot. Seamless integration of post war footage and the current movie, for film buffs this is a visual treat. A more complex, violent, and more sexual mystery than the Third Man but authentic to the period. You even have Lena walking through the sewers under Berlin (in high heels!) to search for,... well, see the movie. Just like the finale of The Third Man.

One expects to hear Anton Karas's zither playing "The Harry Lime Theme" or "The Cafe Mozart Waltz" from a cafe in the bombed-out city!

It's a tad long but it has the substance of older movies. Yes, it does lack emotion - esp. anger. A pervasive sense of postwar gloom and powerlessness runs through the lead characters. But even with it's flaws, it's an adult movie, and it's much better than 90% of what's out today.

Underappreciated, but with many virtues. True Film Noir.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
THE GOOD GERMAN is one of those films that captures the audience so much with its style and ambience that a relatively weak plot may go unnoticed.

It's on the eve of the 1945 Potsdam Conference in Berlin, and correspondent Jake Geismer (George Clooney) arrives in town to cover the festivities. Almost immediately, his wallet is stolen and, furthermore, he discovers that the girlfriend, i.e. steady hooker, of Tully (Tobey Maguire), his enlisted Army driver, is none other than Lena Brandt (Cate Blanchett), Jake's pre-war stringer and lover. It also soon becomes apparent that the Russians in their occupation zone have a strong interest in finding Lena's ostensibly-dead SS husband, Emil (Christian Oliver). Why? Well, because the Americans seem to want him even more, perhaps because Emil was personal secretary to a top Nazi rocket scientist. But Lena is exasperatingly closed mouthed about the whole affair, so what's she hiding?

THE GOOD GERMAN is gloriously filmed in black in white to mesh with archival footage from the time and place. Trust me, Cate's strong-featured beauty looks good in any color or lack thereof. And though my wife disagrees with me on this, Lena's character may remind one of an enigmatic Marlene Dietrich. In any case, this is Cate's second Oscar-worthy performance of 2006, the first being in NOTES ON A SCANDAL. In the meantime, George's Geismer gets the Bandini beat out of him at every turn, first by Tully, then by Soviet troops and assorted mysterious assailants. It's just not poor Jake's day.

A criticism of the film has been that Lena's ultimate secret isn't worth writing home about. True, it didn't cause me to rise from a slouch in my seat and gasp with amazement. On the other hand, it does illustrate what the director was perhaps intending to show, i.e. that the banality of evil embodied by Hitler's Third Reich depended largely on the predictable and mundane actions of its ordinary citizens. Lest we forget.
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65 of 76 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2007
"The Good German" provides viewers with intriguing film noir related to a war setting. Director Steve Soderbergh opted for a black and white treatment of a film based in war torn Germany at the end of the conflict for a very good reason.

Some reviewers were critical of using film noir format at a current point of film making when war ravaged Germany could have been shown using the latest in color technology. "What was the point of it?" critics have asked pertaining to Soderbergh's decision.

As someone who has written two books on the subject of film noir, I will use the opportunity to jump into Soderbergh's shoes and explain what I would presume his motivation to be. While so many critics remain ensconced in the captivating old detective genre starring a Robert Mitchum, Dick Powell or Humphrey Bogart, war provides a starkness all its own.

In viewing "The Good German" I concluded that the starkness of black and white suited the tenor, tone and mood of a drama set against the rubble of the great city of Berlin after the destruction of war had taken its tragic toll.

As for the dramatic elements, George Clooney was ideal as the war reporter who returns to Germany after hostilities have ended and reheats old passions with sleek, sexy and very savvy Cate Blanchett. When he learns that she has been having an affair with the young soldier who has been assigned to be his driver Clooney becomes disgusted, seeking to learn more about a woman he now believes to be a self-serving opportunist up to her eyeballs in intrigue.

After having a violent physical confrontation with his young driver, Clooney becomes more curious as the driver's body washes up on shore after his corpse has been floating in the river. The reporter becomes more determined to find out more about the woman who had been his lover. He is now convinced that he knew far less about than he had earlier believed.

Cate Blanchett plays her role of a lady of mystery with consummate skill. She immerses herself in her role as a German so well that she is physically unrecognizable from the star that played another great actress named Kate with a "K", namely Hepburn in "The Aviator."

At the film's end Clooney's confrontation with Blanchett reveals her as someone determined to survive during a war period and in a city where bodies are falling all around her.

The lesson to be learned is that life is a battle for survival and that the Blanchetts of the world are the most skilled at playing it, enhancing their chances to endure. Philosophers continue to ponder the question of the morality of tactics pursued that would be anything but acceptable under less compelling circumstances.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 1, 2007
There's times where I don't really care for Steven Soderbergh movies. Traffic I felt was a compelling if overlong drama that had an aura of self-importance, like it was intentionally made to be one of those "important" films. The Good German sometimes feels like the same way: like it wants to be a classic noir film although the intent of course was for it to feel like a film that would've been made at RKO in the old days. While there's some things that feel out of place and just a genuine feeling of sluggishness, it's still a good homage to a classic time period.

Jake Geismser (George Clooney) is in Berlin covering the Potsdam Conference with Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin and President Roosevelt. He meets driver Tully (Tobey Maguire) who's a nice guy until he's left alone in where he becomes a scheming, violent firebrand. His girlfriend is prostitute Lena (Cate Blanchett) who of course has to be Geismer's ex. But the name "Emil Brandt" pops up which gets everyone riled up and a murder happens which gets Jake investigating on who the culprit is and what's so important about Emil Brandt.

I will say this: this film has the perfect 1940's feel, from the shadows to the staging, the overdramatic music and it's even presented in full-frame. Even if you don't like the movie, you got to admit they nailed the feel. As far as acting, we do have Clooney and Blanchett who almost were born to be in black and white with Blanchett looking the best. Only misstep was Maguire since he's not really menacing so much as he goes into temper tantrums. If he did this performance in Spider-Man 3, that movie would've benefited. He even rabbit punches a girl in this just so the filmmakers can let you know this guy's tough. Classically trained actors just needed to look at you to know he's not one to cross; Maguire has to actually be given something violent to do.

The problem with the movie as a whole is that it's just...kind of boring. It's as if more attention was paid to the look than the script. Casablanca was talky sure but at least it kept your interest. This feels like you're just checking the time code a lot wondering how long the movie's been on. But if you're one that prefers the old movies, you'll probably like this although a sex scene that would've got cut feels odd while there's tons of language to get thrown around. But, as far as a great B&W movie is concerned, Good Night and Good Luck is definately a better pick.

Either it's to preserve the "magic" of making the movie or just simply make special features unavailable until a bigger Special Edition is announced, it's really bare-bones. Unless you're a die-hard fan and have to own it, go ahead and buy it but for others, either rent it and test the waters or just wait.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon June 11, 2007
"The Good German" is a tribute to the old Hollywood classics like "Casablanca," which is the movie that this film tries so hard to emulate. Stylistically, "The Good German" is incredible. The entire movie is filmed in glistening black and white, and it's very hard to distinguish it from a movie that was made 60 years ago. The basic plot is pretty good, too: an American military journalist (George Clooney) arrives in post-war Berlin to cover the Potsdam conference, only to stumble into a murder plot involving his newly-appointed driver (Toby Maguire), a former flame (Cate Blanchett) and her not-quite-dead husband. Unfortunately, "The Good German" fails to generate a strong emotional response from the audience the way "Casablanca" does, which really takes away from the other wonderful accomplishments the talented director and cast managed to achieve.

Clooney delivers an excellent performance, but I was disappointed in Maguire, who seemed very out of place in the film. (Fortunately, his character doesn't stick around for very long.) However, the two shining stars of this film are Blanchett, who delivers a stunning performance in her mysterious role, and the cinematography itself, which is absolutely breathtaking. Being a huge fan of old movies, I really enjoyed this modern throwback to 1940s filmmaking. In my opinion, though, the graphic sexual content and foul language really took away from the classic aesthetic feel director Steven Soderbergh tried so desperately to recreate: it was unnecessary, and it really took away from all the other old-fashioned movie elements.

The final scene in the film is very obviously a recreation of the last scene in "Casablanca." Again, while I enjoyed the tribute, I felt that the last scene of "The Good German" severely lacked the same kind of emotion and passion that "Casablanca" has, which is a real shame. The acting was good, but I really didn't care about what happened to any of the characters, which signifies a major problem with the script.

I hope Soderbergh attempts to do another "modern film noir" movie eventually. He has the look of it down pat: now all he needs is a slightly stronger script, and we'll be back to the days of Bogart and Bergman in no time!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
In THE GOOD GERMAN, Steven Soderburgh does an amazingly good job of recreating the noir look, sound, and feel of Michael Curtiz's classic 1940s Warner Brothers productions such as Passage to Marseille,Now, Voyager, and Casablanca, so much so that I expected Madeleine LeBeau, Leonid Kinskey and Marcel Dalio to play the bit parts.

Shot in black and white with incandescent lighting, recorded with boom mikes, and using fixed focus lenses, Soderburgh makes this film an homage to the era of the wartime melodrama.

George Clooney plays Jake Geisman, a war correspondent returned to his prewar posting, Berlin, just as the Potsdam Conference gets under way in Berlin (July 1945). As is natural, Jake tries to reconnect with his Berlin past, only to find himself drawn into a murder mystery shaped and defined by the nascent Cold War. As Jake blunders from situation to situation trying to discover the truth, he loses his postwar innocence and optimism.

Along with others, Jake also gets into a lot of fights with a character I eventually dubbed "The Mysterious Man Who Hits People In The Head." Said Mysterious Man appears so often that I suggested changing the name of the film from "Der Gute Deutsch" to "Klop en Kopf."

Also starring Cate Blanchett as Jake's former lover, Lena Brandt ("Why are you throwing away women like that? Someday they may be rationed") and Tobey Maguire as an amoral American GI and black-marketeer, Sgt. Tully ("You do despise me Rick, don't you?"), the four-letter dialogue and frank sexual situations belie both the atmosphere and the straight-ahead Forties-style plot to indicate that this is a retrospective, not a re-creation.

So much of THE GOOD GERMAN samples films from the era that part of a cinemaphile's enjoyment of watching comes down to, "I saw that in . . ." This is particularly true of the ending, which will be instantly familiar but strangely unrecognizable.

THE GOOD GERMAN is highly recommended, particularly for adherents of the classic silver screen.
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney are well on the path of establishing a memorable Hollywood partnership akin to John Wayne and John Ford or Humphrey Bogart and John Huston; they have a production company together, have made many films together and have produced still others. "The Good German", their latest effort, is an interesting experiment. But it is more interesting as an experiment and less interesting as a film.

Captain Jacob Geismer (George Clooney), a journalist, arrives in Germany to cover the Potsdam conference at the end of World War II. Geismer was stationed in Germany before the War began, running the Associate Press bureau, and his return is bittersweet, and the town and people he once loved are in ruins. His driver, Tully (Tobey Maguire), a young Army solider, loves living in post-War Germany and works the angles to make some money, providing black market items to people, procuring counterfeit documents, anything to earn money. Geismar soon learns that his old girlfriend, Lena (Cate Blanchett) is still alive and dating Tully. Soon, it becomes apparent that someone is manipulating them to find Lena's husband, Emil, a scientist, who she claims is dead.

"The Good German" is a difficult film to become involved in. The actors show little emotion as they move through the mechanics of the story. Perhaps this is intended, as a way of showing the effects of the war. In the book, when Geismar finds Lena, she is very sick and he nurses her back to health before they become embroiled in the plot. This is barely alluded to in the film and it changes the dynamic of their relationship. It is difficult to see why he is so interested in Lena. Yes, she is a former lover, but he knows she has been dating Tully (and `dating' is a kind word for their relationship) and has basically has become a prostitute to survive. We never learn why he is so attached to her. Because he doesn't care for her in the same way in the film, nursing her back to health as he did in the book, he doesn't "care for her" in the same way. Because this key relationship doesn't work, the rest of the film becomes a bit tedious.

Soderbergh has always been an innovative filmmaker. In most of his films, he experiments with various aspects of the creative process. In some, he changes color and light to produce heightened effects. In others, he plays with narrative and dialogue to create an interesting, more powerful dynamic between the characters. He has experimented with film noir, sci-fi, drama, comedy, relationship films, heist films, caper films and much more. He is a filmmaker consistently willing to push the envelope, to strengthen his skills and do something different and unusual.

"The Good German", set in 1945, naturally lends itself to a black and white composition. But rather than take a Woody Allen approach and shoot the film in stunning, crystal clear black and white, Soderbergh decided to move backwards and play with some of the filmmaking techniques from this period. In any conversation about great black and white films, one of the titles that will come up is "Casablanca". The similarities between the two films are startling; both are set during the war years, involve people affected by the war, and feature doomed relationships. Soderbergh shot "The Good German" on sound stages in Los Angeles, much like Curtiz did with "Casablanca". But he went a few steps further. Using digital filmmaking techniques in combination with period lenses, lighting and sound techniques he gives the film a remarkably `authentic' look. Scenes are lit dramatically even surrealistically and whites occasionally flare as the camera pans across them. But the director also seems to have adopted some filmmaking techniques common to the period. People move in and out of frame, or approach the camera, their faces filling the screen. He has eschewed long tracking shots for a more dated directorial style.

I have read that Soderbergh directed the actors to perform in a presentational, theatrical stage style. If you look at "Casablanca", this would be a great way of describing Bogart's and Bergman's acting style. Yet, why is it that we remember this as a classic and I can barely remember Clooney and Blanchett's performances from watching the film yesterday? They are certainly similar, but it just doesn't work in this new film. The characters seem cold, distant and aloof and we don't really care for them.

Hopefully, Soderbergh will use some of these techniques on his next film. Now that he has a better handle on them, he should be able to use them to their advantage, possibly creating a ground breaking, memorable work.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
It was a bit of a shock at first to see Batman (George Clonney) and Spider Man (Tobey McQuire) together in the opening scenes of THE GOOD GERMAN. Especially seeing Spider Man. But that went away quickly with Maquire's tough, black-marketing Corporal Tully erasing memories of his sweet Spidey role. Despite the action-hero star presence of Clooney and Maguire, Cate Blanchette turns out to be the real star of this blank and white post WW II noir film, her sultry, dangerously mysterious persona stealing the show. The camera seems to linger on her like a love sick teenager. The plot is about Americans and Russians trying to locate a German scientist and people getting killed or betrayed. But I found myself drifting away from the details of the plot twists and focusing instead on the atmospherics of post-war Berlin with rubble still in the streets and women selling themselves to survive. That and the characters portrayed by Blanchett and Clooney, who this time out finds himself in a subdued role without a script to emphasise his gift of humor or his glamour. In fact, in the harsh black and white photography, Clooney looks older and haggard while Blanchett becomes even more beautiful. The GOOD GERMAN takes its time and goes mostly nowhere but you will enjoy being there with Cate. Director Steven Soderbergh is intent on giving us a moody film with lots of shadows and dramatic lighting and cinematic posturing to classic black and white movies like CASABLANCA. In THE GOOD GERMAN you can see similarities to SOLARIS, another film directed by Soderbergh. Both are fine, quiet, psychological studies with more mood than action.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on August 19, 2007
Recently, I have seen two films which have left audiences either being bored witless, or entranced, enjoying something different and intrigued by the plot. The Good Shepherd was a slow moving espionage drama, that dealt with lies,spies, and stealth,and The Good German is about survival,
lies, entrapment,desperation.
The Stephen Soderburgh directed "Good German" is a dark film both in dialogue and style - very reminscent of The Third Man, and the great Warner Bros film noirs of the 40's/50's.
Apparently he reverted back to using the same kind of cameras that were used in the forties,had the lighting changed to ensure the darkened look of the film replicated the look of the film noire - which built up the sense of danger and fear so essential to the background of a war torn Berlin.
The central female character, Lena Brandt (played with perfection by Cate Blanchet) is a woman who is widowed,was raped by the Russians,now working as a prostitute,who is desperate to get out of Berlin, but needs a man to protect her and pay her way out.
She becomes the mistress of Tully, a rather nasty,oportunistic and violent fellow who's "day job" is as an American Army motor pool driver. This is the first time I've seem Maguire playing a cad, but he inserts just the right amount of the "smilimg assassin" into his character.
I recall one chilling moment when he is driving Jake - an American journalist (George Clooney) in Berlin to cover the Potsdam conference.
Sully is bragging like a big shot about his his girlfriend, then he stops and says "You can have her for an hour if you like." That summed Tully's character up in one sentence, she was using him to get out of the country and he was using her for whatever took his fancy, knowing as he did that Lena was dependant on him for freedom and food,her very survival.
George Clooney's Jake (reminiscent of William Holden at his peak in this) is a former lover of Lena's and when Sully is murdered after crossing the border into the Russian Zone,he steps in to try and help her.
Lena proves to be not what she pretends to be - her survival instincts are such that during the war she cold bloodedly betrayed neighbours to the Gestapo - an act that comes back to haunt her.
She is shown as self absorbed and ruthless, using men for their power as she is powerless, prepared to do whatever is necessary to save herself.
All in all, it's a tale of shadows and intrigue,of people who have lost their souls and who are trying to come to terms with all that has happened to them.
The Good German is not a five star journey, but thanks largely to Blanchet's fine acting and Soderburgh's direction, the film is worth of 4.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2007
.....I must credit...Stargazer...who critiqued this DVD perfectly...movies in the WW2 years were produced on 35mm celluloid/film just like this one...excellent art direction [wonderful]...slices of life in postwar Germany were with raw emotions leaving nothing to the imagination...Clooney and Cate portray their war/weary characters to the limit and like in real life, Clooney's character gets the crap beaten out of him by nefarious Russians, Germans and even Americans throughout this black/noir flick...best dramatic acting by the scarred up Clooney....the ending on Clooney's part was a letdown to me...Cate lived a horrendous life/existence just to survive in Nazi Germany...her portrayal showed how basically human one could be...all of us would have done the very same things she did to see her dawns...Tobey Maguire impressed me with his grasp of a capricious and double dealing SOB of an enlisted GI exploiting everyone he came in contact with...his was a grand performance with a poetic justice demise...this film ranks with any big WW2 movie...in any era, too...highly engrossing themes with the utter topical destruction wreaked on Berlin then and this DVD is well worth the sale price...Clooney at his very dramatic best!!....SSGT CHRIS SARNO-USMC FMF
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