Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Good German: Grade D


The Good German (2006)

George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Toby Maguire. Director Steven Soderbergh

Photography is the star of this black-and-white movie set in 1945 Berlin and Potsdam. Clooney is a reporter who “accidentally” encounters his German mistress from years ago (Blanchett). She does a skulking lady of mystery, acting well, but with no character to act around. Her husband, a proxy for Werner von Braun, is dead and now she hangs out with a young American GI (Maguire), hoping to find her way out of Germany. She puts off Clooney’s interest, if it interest is not too strong a word. They show no hint of former or current passion. It’s a clunker of a relationship. Maguire is horribly miscast, his manufactured and anachronistic effervescence grating on the nerves. The role needed a sly and sophisticated wheeler-dealer like James Garner in The Great Escape, or even a dark Peter Lorre type, and someone closer in age to Blanchett’s character. Clooney brings nothing but stone-faced mug shots to the role. The evil Russian is the only standout actor. The plot is not well-told and generates no tension. The only thing keeping your eyes on the screen is the photography, high-contrast, side-lit and bottom-lit stuff as from an old Bogart movie, well-shot and well-composed. The ending is a lame allusion to Casablanca. But even the photography loses its way at times, with bright light coming from the center of someone’s desk so their face can be lit from below. Still, the movie is worth watching with the sound off, just to appreciate the pictures.

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