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The Good German (2006)



Set in post-war Berlin, frequent Soderbergh collaborator George Clooneyplays Jake Geismer, an American military journalist who has returned to Berlin for the Potsdam Peace Conference.

George Clooney, Cate Blanchett
1 hour, 47 minutes

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Product Details

Genres Drama, Thriller, Mystery
Director Steven Soderbergh
Starring George Clooney, Cate Blanchett
Supporting actors Tobey Maguire, Beau Bridges, Tony Curran, Leland Orser, Jack Thompson, Robin Weigert, Ravil Isyanov, Christian Oliver, Dave Power, Don Pugsley, Dominic Comperatore, John Roeder, J. Paul Boehmer, Igor Korosec, Boris Kievsky, Vladimir Kulikov, Yevgeniy Narovlyanskiy, Aleksandr Sountsov
Studio Warner Bros.
MPAA rating R (Restricted)
Captions and subtitles English Details
Purchase rights Stream instantly Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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.
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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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"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.
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