Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Understand this.  Cate Blanchett is hot as hell.  Okay, maybe not in the classic Halle Berry sense of hot, though she is an attractive woman, but what gets Cate over is quite simply her immeasurable talent.  Cate Blanchett is hands down the most talented working actress out right now, and possibly, no, probably the most gifted actress of my generation.  In any given film, be it great ones like ‘Elizabeth’ or ‘The Lord of the Rings’ or crap like ‘Bandits’, Cate is going to best thing in it.  In Steven Soderbergh’s ‘The Good German’, Blanchett’s performance is, as per usual, a cut above. The movie itself unfortunately doesn’t rise to lofty stakes that Blanchett consistently establishes.

George Clooney is Jake Geismer, a reporter who used to run the AP bureau during World War II in Berlin.  Now that the war is over, he accepts a job to cover an allied conference on fixing a bombed out Germany.  The real reason Jake is in Germany is to track down his former lover Lena Brandt (Blanchett) who I assume put it on him like he’s never had it before because my man Jake is DESPERATE to find this woman.  Turns out that Lena is the consort of Jake's assigned driver during his Berlin stay, Corporal Patrick Tully (Tobey McGuire) a bootlegging, dope smoking, short tempered man who has stumbled upon a situation involving Lena and finds himself a bit out of his league. 

Seems that Lena’s husband, the late Emil Brandt, was a secretary for noted Nazi scientist Franz Bettman and recorded the atrocities that Bettman forced upon his Jewish prisoners while conducting his nuclear experiments.  But maybe Emil isn’t so late after all.  Whatever is going on goes terribly wrong for Corporal Tully, and now

Jake needs to know what the truth is as he tries to find out what Lena knows, what the government is hiding, and why he keeps doing so many stupid things in the course of this flick.

Soderbergh films his movie in black and white.  Now I’m not talking black and white say like in the Billy Bob Thornton film ‘The Man who Knew too Much’, which looked like it was filmed is glossy color and then simply had the color removed.  ‘The Good German’ looks like it was filmed with left over film stock from ‘Casablanca’, ‘White Heat’, or ‘The Barefoot Contessa’ or something.  Everything about the way this movie was shot, the look, the settings, the lighting, the mood, the atmosphere was so authentic that you would swear that it was shot by Joseph Mankiewicz.  I don’t know what exactly Soderbergh was going for as far as the look for his film, but he had to come pretty damn close to achieving his vision, considering how beautiful this thing came out looking.

Cate Blanchett was brilliant as usual.  The woman has voice inflection like few since Meryl Streep, nailing a deep Marlena Dietrich-esque German accent even tighter than she was able to mimic Katherine Hepburn’s intonation in ‘The Aviator’.  Toby McGuire was completely cast against type as pathological Tully, but Peter Parker handles the role quite admirably.  Clooney’s Jake was certainly one of the denser characters in recent movie history, ignoring even the best advice to try to help this woman who’s done nothing but lie to him, and even pulls a gun out on him at one point, but like I said, she must have really put it on him because he moves forward doing her will with blinders on.  But it was so deathly boring.  I mean this was a snoozer of the highest level.  All of the pretty pictures, and realistic sets and great performances did very little to make this thing move just a little faster, make the story just a little more interesting, and make you care just a little tiny bit about what happens to any of the characters.  I mean this isn’t an acting class, or a set design class, or a class on cinematography here.  It’s a movie, and though all of previous things I just mentioned were all Academy Award worthy in their excellence, the heart of any movie, the story which drives it, just wasn’t anything worth remembering in ‘The Good German’.

Soderbergh obviously put a lot of effort in creating a look for this film which was definitely unique from anything I’ve ever seen in modern cinema.  By modern, I mean like post 1977 – Star Wars.  That’s modern for me.  And I don’t know what actually goes into ‘directing’ Cate Blanchett, as I would assume you give her a script and then get  out of her way.  But despite the technical achievements of ‘The Good German’ as a piece of cinema, it fails as a piece of entertainment.

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