Tonight I went with Kurt to see The Good German, the latest film from director Steven Soderbergh. Based on the novel by Joseph Kanon, the film takes place in post-war Berlin, where War Correspondent Capt. Jake Geismer (George Clooney) is back in town to cover the Potsdam Conference. There he becomes embroiled in a tale of murder and cover-ups, involving his former mistress Lena Brandt (Cate Blanchett), his driver Patrick Tully (Tobey Maguire), and a few military officials on the US and Russian side.
The film is done in the old style of filmmaking from the 1940s, and borrows much from The Third Man and other films of that type. The story is overly complicated at times, and there is nothing about any of the characters that we can “connect” to. This is not a very good film. It’s not terrible, but there’s not much to compel one to see it. Except for the technical aspect. It’s in that area where the film truly shines.
Soderbergh shot the film on old 1940s lenses, and the movie is slightly windowboxed (they couldn’t do Cinemascope back in those days). It’s in black and white, and has a great vintage look to it. The set design is great, hearkening back to the bombed-out look of post-war Berlin. The music is stellar, featuring a Golden Age influenced score by Thomas Newman, son of the late great Alfred Newman.
Overall, the film was interesting to watch, but not very engaging. It’s worth a rental, just for the technical aspects, but go watch The Third Man or Casablanca (a shot of which is ripped off quite liberally in the climax of this film) instead.