In a stark contrast to last week’s film, this week we step back in time. From 300’s slick cutting-edge effects we bump decades backwards to the technology of 1945. It’s like listening to an old record – there’s a crackle in the background but something comforting and rich about the experience. Plus it’s George Clooney, and he’s great to look at whatever the picture quality.
Anyway, before I get distracted by George too soon I’d better talk about the film. The Good German comes from Steven Soderbergh, him what directed Ocean’s Eleven (and its (yawn) two follow-ups), Traffic, Erin Brockovich and the excellent Out of Sight, plus others I can’t be bothered to list. With The Good German he films everything on 1945 equipment, which basically means it looks like one of those old films that appear on Channel 4 on Sunday afternoons. You know, the ones you usually turn off because they’re black and white, and old, and we all know that no one had anything useful to say in them days. Not like what we produce now-a-days. Such cultural masterpieces like Norbit.
Sorry, I’m getting distracted again. The Good German is set in post-war Berlin, and follows Georgie as a military journalist who gets dragged into a murder investigation. It’s film noir to the tee, with Cate Blanchett doing her very best pout as the girl George just has to help, and Tobey Maguire as a wormy little American enjoying the spoils of war. There’s some uncomfortable Nazi history thrown in, but the main focus is George and his journey. A journey that involves getting hit over the head all the time. Seriously, he’s rubbish – every time he walks through a door something will come crashing down on his head. You’d think he’d learn. Open a door, then duck George! Duck!
Anyway, it’s all very serious, and everyone seems quite pleased with themselves for filming something old-style. Aren’t they clever! The trouble is, after the novelty you’re left with a standard piece of noir, a genre which has been done to death, and more recently done in more interesting ways (last year’s Brick, in CF’S Top 10 of 2006, brought the genre to technicolour high school with pleasing results). The characters are a little stilted, with the most interesting (Tobey Maguire) barely used, and even George’s usual charisma is buried under a protagonist with few reasons to route for. It’s not done badly, but there’s no sparkle. Soderbergh may have pushed aside today’s supermarket loaf and brought home-made bread to the table, but at the end of the day it’s still bread. He could’ve put some currants in it or something.
I’m not really sure what I’m talking about now, but I’m positive it’s quite insightful. I would say that The Good German is an interesting film with good performances and a vaguely intriguing plot. I wouldn’t say it managed to get above anything more than interesting, so it’s getting a CF0. I’m recommending it, but only if you go out of your way to ask me if it’s any good. And then I’ll just shrug and say ‘sure’. But there’s a rhino in 300, and you don’t get those in 1940’s Berlin.