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  Good German, The No One Is Innocent
Year: 2006
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Stars: George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire, Beau Bridges, Jack Thompson, Ravil Isyanov, Tony Curran, Don Pugsley, Robin Weigert, Christian Oliver, Leland Orser, Dave Power, Dominic Comperatore, Brandon Keener, David Willis, Gian Franco Tordi
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: American journailst Jake Geismer (George Clooney) has arrived in Potsdam, Germany, just as the talks there between the leaders of the Allied countries congregated there are about to begin, so that they can decide what to do with the defeated nation. Although the Japanese fight on, it's only a matter of time before the Second World War will be over for good, but now there are fears that a new tension will arise in the world, and Jake is beginning to notice this. But apart from covering the conference, he is also hoping to catch up with an old flame, Lena (Cate Blanchett), who he believes is still somewhere in the country...

The best thing about Steven Soderbergh's homage to the classic forties melodrama out of Hollywood (although there's a measure of the British The Third Man as well) was how exquisitely it recreated the look of those films, with the director himself at the camera to fashion gleaming and elegant images for his story, and the cast instructed to perform in the manner befitting the stars of yesteryear. However, this was rendered as if the Production Code of the era had been far more lax, therefore swearing, sex and violence don't simply seem to have been permitted in the making of The Good German, but positively encouraged.

Yet if anything, the movie owed more to Carl Reiner and Steve Martin's lovingly fashioned spoof of the film noir of the time, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, except here were actual twenty-first century stars in place of vintage ones cleverly edited into the action. The only real difference between what that was doing and what Soderbergh attempted was this sent up the conventions with a straight face, with not one laugh to be had throughout the whole thing (unless Clooney's repeatedly poor combat skills were a running joke). The Reiner/Martin effort took these films apart with affection, whereas here the intention was more to lambast them for their romanticism.

But it could well be that the romanticism, which was not the same as sentimentalism, was a quality imparted by looking back at these movies, and actually what Soderbergh was doing was sniping from a position of assumed superiority that would not stand up in reference to works that were as hardhitting as they could allow. Take Billy Wilder's A Foreign Affair, which appears to have been an influence on this (certainly Blanchett was offering us her best Marlene Dietrich); yes, that was a comedy, but it had things to say about the immediate post-war Germany that The Good German was a lot less tolerant of. Indeed, Soderbergh, with screenwriter Paul Attanasio, takes the view that there might well have been no such thing as the title character.

But if Soderbergh is blaming all of Germany for World War II, or those citizens who were around at the time at any rate, he is no less pointing the finger at the Allies who allowed such an enormity to occur, and indeed fed the vileness of the conflict into creating a new, longer lasting one in the Cold War. What is lurking here is the spectre of the nuclear bomb as Japan is forced to surrender near the end of the film, but missile technology as devised by the Nazis will bring such weapons into a fresh era of tension due to their ease of deployment. The Allies here are dividing up the spoils of Nazi rocket scientists, knowing that they must keep this quiet from the public as the war trials commence, and Jake finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy where emotions of the kind that fuelled those 1940s dramas have no place. There's a lot going on here, possibly too much as it doesn't appeal to the viewer to keep up, and its cold, clinical stylings make for a hard film to warm to. Maybe the Golden Age of Hollywood would have made a better try at accessibility with this subject matter. Music by Thomas Newman.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Steven Soderbergh  (1963 - )

Versatile American writer, director and producer whose Sex Lies and Videotape made a big splash at Cannes (and its title has become a cliche). There followed an interesting variety of small films: Kafka, King of the Hill, noir remake The Underneath, Schizopolis (which co-starred his ex-wife) and Gray's Anatomy.

Then came Out of Sight, a smart thriller which was successful enough to propel Soderbergh into the big league with The Limey, Erin Brockovich, Oscar-winning Traffic and classy remake Ocean's 11. When Full Frontal and his Solaris remake flopped, he made a sequel to Ocean's 11 called Ocean's 12, material he returned to with Ocean's 13. Che Guevara biopics, virus thriller Contagion and beat 'em up Haywire were next, with the director claiming he would retire after medication thriller Side Effects and Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra. He returned after a period of even greater activity with heist flick Logan Lucky and his first horror, Unsane.

 
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