Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on January 19, 2007
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Paul Attanasio, based on the novel by Joseph Kanon
Cast: George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire, Beau Bridges, Tony Curran, Leland Orser, Jack Thompson, Robin Weigert, Ravil Isyanov, Christian Oliver, Don Pugsley, Dave Power
A few weeks back, I was in the mood to watch a film from my Monolith collection that I’d never seen before, and since I’d had this one sitting on the shelf for quite some time now (after having bought it on a whim—and cheap—at a local used record store), I decided it was time to give it a shot. And since it was a period piece set during the aftermath of World War II, was filmed in black-and-white, and starred one of my favorite actors working today, George Clooney, I figured it had to be a safe bet.
Well, it most certainly wasn’t. Somehow, director Steven Soderbergh found a way to take a fairly decent idea—a noir-like war drama made to resemble a film from the 1940s—and turn it into something that was dull, moved at a snail’s pace, and at times was a bit tiresome. The story, such as it is, features Clooney as a war correspondent in post-war Berlin on the eve of a peace conference, with Tobey McGuire the driver with questionable motives assigned to him, and Cate Blanchett the woman caught between the two. A murder in the Russian sector then complicates things.
After seeing two of Soderbergh’s more recent directorial efforts, Haywire and Side Effects, and enjoying them both, I was surprised that he’d taken such a step down with this one. But maybe it wasn’t entirely his fault; if I must choose just one culprit to shake my fist at, I’d go with screenwriter Paul Annatasio and his plodding, character-deficient story. I also wonder if he strayed far from the source novel’s plot, or if the book was equally as irksome—and filled with as many obscenities and sex scenes—as the film was.
Clooney, Blanchett, and their supporting cast were all fine, and at times their scenes showed some solid noir potential. But McGuire was flat-out annoying, and didn’t have the stature—or class—to compete on equal ground with his co-stars. And though Soderbergh’s directorial skills were evident enough, his attempts at mimicking the tone and ambience of such ’40s wartime noirs as Berlin Express and 13 Rue Madeleine were sadly deficient.
Also, it was surprising to see Clooney play such a patsy here, and he seemed to spend a good portion of his screen time getting the tar kicked out of him. Still, he was a strong enough presence to make The Good German somewhat worthy of a look, if only to see how he would’ve fared in an actual noir film, in a role that otherwise might’ve been offered to Clark Gable or Cary Grant. In the end, however, I felt kinda peeved that I’d wasted three dollars on the thing. (5/10)