Dir: Steven Soderbergh. US. 2006.107mins.
Steven Soderbergh's latestcinematic experiment is an homage to atmospheric wartime noir classics like The Third Man and Casablanca, attempting to reconjure themagic by recreating post-war Berlin on the backlot, shootingin black-and-white and encouraging the actors to give heightened theatricalperformances a la Bogart or Dietrich. It's a bold idea but a failure in the realisation, not necessarily because those 1940s movies arepeerless, but because Soderbergh cannot generatesuspense or romance from his mise en scene. It'stechnically audacious, but ultimately dreary to watch.
The package here - Soderbergh and three of today's most compelling film actors(Clooney, Blanchett, Maguire) - will intrigueaudiences and box-office figures will be respectable. But reviews will be farfrom raves, word of mouth won't be strong and mainstream moviegoers attractedby Clooney will be turned off by the black-and-white. In the final analysis,it's nothing more than an expensive curio.
Soderbergh's films are generally cerebral affairs which rarelyinspire thrills in, or generate tears from, the audience (remember Solaris'). While his objective tone wasappropriate for verite drama like Traffic or Bubble, it is not for a film emulating
The setting of the film,written by Paul Attanasio from Joseph Kanon's novel, is
Nor does he limit himself to1940s sensibilities. The Good Germanis full of brazen sexuality, foul-mouthed dialogue and ugly violence.
The story concerns Jake Geismer (Clooney), a cynical
He is met from the airportby his driver from the motor pool Corporal Tully (Maguire), a wide-eyedMidwestern kid on the surface who in reality is a corrupthustler getting whatever benefit he can from the beleaguered city.Tully, we discover, is sleeping with
The complicated plot, mainlycomposed of shady characters on all sides of the political spectrum andmultiple red herrings, sees Tully trying to cut a deal with the Russians fordelivery of
Ironically, A Foreign Affair is the film to which The Good German bears most similarities.Although that was a comedy, it perfectly captured the amorality of post-war
Clooney also struggles to producehis usual magnetism in a role which would have been perfect for Clark Gable orDana Andrews. Maguire, meanwhile, steals the acting honours.Exploiting his youthful Peter Parker naivete to thehilt at first, he is all the more menacing when he turns pugnacious. Once he isdispatched to an early grave 20 minutes in, the film loses its energy.
Frederic W Brost
Paul Attanasio, basedon the novel by Joseph Kanon
Peter Andrews (aka Soderbergh)
Mary Ann Bernard (akaSoderbergh)