'Good German' is film-noir mishmash


Published: Friday, January 19, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 18, 2007 at 11:50 p.m.
Books have been written about the confluence of talent, chemistry, coincidence and timing that led to the cinematic perfection we know as "Casablanca." But what if things had gone wrong on that 1942 classic?
Though Steven Soderbergh obviously did not set out to answer that question with "The Good German," he more or less has.
This adaptation of Joseph Kanon's 2001 novel, shot using the technology available in the 1940s, has the black-and-white film noir look of "Casablanca," it offers the same mix of political intrigue and rekindled extramarital romance, and its final airport scene is a direct homage.
But if you feel anything other than admiration for its craftsmanship, let me know; "The Good German" is as emotionally cold and unconvincing as any movie I've seen this year.
Set at the end of World War II, it stars George Clooney as Jake Geismer, an Army war correspondent returning to Germany to cover the Potsdam Conference, where leaders from Russia, the U.S. and England are convening to partition the defeated country.
While there, Jake also hopes to run into Lena Brandt (Cate Blanchett), his married, prewar mistress. Talk about luck; though his former stringer is now a hooker, she's dating Tully (Tobey Maguire), an American corporal and black market hustler assigned by motor-pool as Jake's driver.
And Tully, good sport that he is, offers Jake a free hour of her time.
The story's political intrigue involves Lena's husband, Emil (Christian Oliver), a German rocket scientist who has "documents" of interest in the budding Cold War to both U.S. and Russian agents.
Clooney and Blanchett are handsome stand-ins for Bogart and Bergman, but there's not a spark of chemistry between them, let alone a "Here's looking at you, kid" moment.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top