Directed by Steven Soderbergh. US. 2006.

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Soderbergh and Clooney’s experiment to tell a WW2 story in a current highly charged political climate using sets and technical equipment of the day.  I remember when the film was initially released there was general confusion and consternation surrounding it focusing more on the experimental tone of the film.

But the film does have some shocks up its sleeve, the surprise being the casting of Tobey Maguire as Tully, who muscles in on everything trying to make the most of his lowly position and be a big shot.  Its odd watching Clooney with Maguire; when they share the screen Clooney is very still letting the dynamic performance of Maguire be magnified but slowly Clooney’s character, Jacob - a war correspondent returning to Berlin after the war for peace talks - gets more involved in this curious web of lies and deception taking place.

Important to Jacob is the character of Ilsa (Cate Blanchett, doing her new German accent and looking more and more like Kate Hepburn) who is married to a genius scientist Emil Brandt who might be able to help USA in the race to top the atom bomb.  Jacob must find Brandt before the Russians do and so we mix genres from war, to noir, to chase film with just one chase that ends in disaster.

‘The Good German’ wears all the influences on its sleeve - ‘Casablanca’, ‘The Third Man’ and ‘The Lady from Shanghai’, ‘Crossfire’ - but it does not make excuses for this although it refuses to make any political statements about the current climate as it is too focused on looking the part.
There is some crisp editing (especially in the alleyway fight between Jacob and Tully) and there is always the shock of having modern day vernacular thrust into an era where you thought it did not exist - the use of the ‘c’ word is particularly jaw-dropping when Tully is angry with Ilsa.

Jamie Garwood

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