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I can't help thinking that the reviewers somehow didn't get this movie. If you check Rotten Tomatoes, you can see that most critics did not like The Good German very much. This film is the newest collaboration between Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney. Together, they have worked on such diverse films as Ocean's Eleven, Solaris, Good Night and Good Luck, and Syriana. These guys like to have fun and with the exception of Ocean's Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, they don't like to make the same movie over and over again. In The Good German, as pictured below, they have tried to re-create a Casablanca-esque 1940's film noir. And I'm not just talking about the movie being in black & white and the cool hats. Everything, from the opening credits to the music to the editing, is done to mimic the style of the 1940's. And they do a pretty good job of it.
In addition to the "look and feel" of a 1940's movie, The Good German has a nice twisty film-noir story line that you never quite figure out. It tells the story of a war correspondent (George Clooney) who returns to Berlin right at the end of WWII. He had been stationed there before the war and had become involved with the wife (Cate Blanchett) of a rocket scientist (Christian Oliver). When Clooney returns in the chaos of post-war Berlin, he finds that his army driver (Tobey Maguire) is now the one sharing Blanchett's bed and that her husband is missing or dead. At the end of the war, the Russians and the Americans were both trying to capture as many rocket scientists as possible, and Berlin, with its British, French, American and Russian zones, is a great setting for this intrigue. Blanchett's husband is also being sought by a US army lawyer (Leland Orser) and his commanding officer (Beau Bridges) for alleged war crimes. And Maguire is doing some black market business with a Russian general (Ravil Isaynov). Meanwhile, Blanchett is now working the streets with a fellow prostitute (Robin Weigert). Clooney has been carrying a torch for her all these years and he wants to try and get Blanchett out of Berlin and back to the States so they can live happily ever after. Ya, right, whatever. Since this is a classic faux film noir, you know that whatever happens, it's not going to have a happy ending.
The leads, Blanchett and Clooney, make a nice faux Bogart and Bergman. They make a nice depressed, bitter couple. The minor characters, who used to be played by the likes of Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet, are very important in these kind of movies. Tobey Maguire wouldn't have been the first person that I thought of to play the nasty piece of work that his character is, but he does well playing against his good-guy type. Beau Bridges and Ravil Isaynov are both great as the scheming American and Russian officers. Robin Weigert, who plays Calamity Jane on Deadwood, is very good as Blanchett's roommate and fellow prostitute. I didn't even recognize her. And there is a nice scary German cop (Don Pugsley) who spends his time chasing down war criminals.
Obviously, Soderbergh had a lot of fun doing this film and the actors are really into it too. I appreciated all the little touches that Soderbergh put into The Good German. That's why I wonder if maybe the critics have never seen Casablanca and didn't get what was going on. Ok, this isn't Casablanca, but it's not trying to be. It's just a good 1940's movie made in 2006.