|The Good German (2006)
Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire, Beau Bridges
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez were certainly left with a majority of the burden after the poor box office performance of “Grindhouse,” but Steven Soderbergh’s “The Good German” is a far guiltier culprit. Granted, his homage to the black-and-white film noirs of the 1940s didn’t cost nearly as much as the aforementioned passion project, but it isn’t as good, either. In fact, “The Good German” entered and exited theaters so swiftly that most of us on the East Coast never even got a chance to see the film, and you should be glad you didn’t. Originally believed to be one of the running candidates for Best Picture, “The Good German” is anything but, and it only further proves that names like Soderbergh and George Clooney don’t always result in cinematic gold.
Clooney stars as Jake Geismer, an American journalist who’s just arrived in post-war Berlin on the eve of the 1945 Potsdam Conference. The war has all but ended (only Japan remains), but when a young corporal (Tobey Maguire) is seemingly murdered during a black market deal with the Russians, Geismer uncovers a mystery involving a Nazi rocket scientist that every military wants to get their hands on. Initially presumed dead, the man is later discovered to be alive when his wife Lena (Cate Blanchett) strikes a deal to give up the secret location of her husband in return for safe passage out of the country. Of course, in the world of film noir, nothing ever goes quite as planned.
That goes for the quality of the movie, as well. Clooney is an ample candidate for the role of the patsy reporter, but the rest of the casting is so off-cue that it hardly matters. Tobey Maguire tries to shed his Peter Parker image by smoking, cursing and pimping out his girlfriend, but it only makes his lack of talent that more obvious. It’s a good thing, then, that he’s only in the first half hour. Blanchett, meanwhile, manages to poison the entire production with her performance (complete with a silly German accent) as the least dangerous femme fatale in the history of the genre.
“The Good German” could have been a modern day classic in the same vein as “Casablanca” and “The Third Man,” but instead, Soderbergh focuses too much on nailing the atmosphere of the feature and forgets about developing his characters. Sure, it looks good, but that doesn’t count for anything if it’s a complete drag to watch. And as the second of the two “Good” films released this year (“The Good Shepherd” being the other), it’s a shame to discover that this one isn't very good either.