The Good German is a "new" noir film by Steven Soderbergh. Do you have to make noir films in b & w and 1940's settings? I don' t think so, but that seems to be the approach Mr. Soderbergh takes in this interesting and entertaining film. George Clooney plays The Investigator--a reporter covering the Potsdam Conference. Tobey MacGuire plays The Sleaze (a nice role reversal for him), while Cate Blanchett checks in as the Teutonic Femme Fatale. It is a decent mystery, our hero gets the crap beat out of him more than once, the bombed-out Berlin backdrop is properly menacing, and the acting and photography is superb throughout. The narrative is interspersed with some actual footage of post-war Berlin, and the whole "Checkpoint Charlie" vibe is omnipresent. The story revolves around the US effort to get the Nazi rocket builders out of Germany before the Russians grab them. Never mind they were war criminals! We need missiles, damnit! The film ends with an obvious homage to Casablanca, with Cate and George and the plane and all that, and it sometimes tries too hard to be "noir-ish." Noir is an outlook, an attitude toward storytelling, not a style. You can make a noir film in the blazing desert sun or on a space station. Noir, for me, is about motivations and characters. The settings of those wonderful old Hollywood films were more the result of budgets than artistry--the good directors and cinematographers made lemonade from lemons. Film noir is dark themes, not just dark scenes. The Good German does delve into the moral qaugmire of the Nazi state and its corrosive effect on the ties that bind a society together, and explores the theme of survival in wartime. I give it an "A" for effort, and a "B" overall. Stylish and enjoyable, but not particularly original.
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