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The Good German
A love story set in post-war Germany
The Good German
George Clooney, Cate Blanchett and Tobey Maguire Star in "The Good German".
OPENING WEEKEND: $22,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $101,000,000
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

June 14th, 2006: A United States Army war correspondent named Jake Geismar (George Clooney), who covered events in Berlin prior to the start of the war, returns to the ruined city soon after Nazi surrender, presumably to cover the Potsdam Conference. The objective of the gathering of the 3 largest and most powerful of the Allied countries (United States represented by Harry S. Truman; United Kingdom represented by Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee; Soviet Union represented by Joseph Stalin) was to decide how to order the defeated and disorganized Nazi Germany. Secretly, Jake hopes to find Lena Brandt (Cate Blanchett), the woman he previously fell in love with and had a torrid affair with during the war. Miraculously, she has survived, but her mathematician father is missing, with both American and Russian intelligence mysteriously in pursuit. When a dead soldier’s body washes up on the shore near the conference, Jake stumbles onto a troubling mystery. The army’s reluctance to answer his questions leads him to believe that he may have uncovered an imperative story. His investigation guides him through a devastated Germany, full of people ridden with guilt over their country’s wartime atrocities. Jake soon discovers a black market and with the help of his chaperon, Lieutenant Tully (Tobey Maguire), he may be able to help Lena.

What to Expect: Forget Tomkat or Brangelina, the ultimate Hollywood power couple is Cloonerbergh. George Clooney has starred in four of Steven Soderbergh’s films, Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, Solaris, and Out of Sight, with The Good German and Ocean’s Thirteen currently in production. Soderbergh has served as producer on Clooney’s two directorial efforts, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Good Night, and Good Luck. As actors, directors, or producers the two have collaborated on countless other projects, including Welcome to Collinwood and Syriana. No doubt, Soderbergh is an important filmmaker as is illustrated by his recent low-budget work of modest genius, Bubble, but he’s dabbled in too many of those Ocean’s films since taking home an Oscar as Best Director for his tour de force picture, Traffic. Clooney has now fully made the transition from television star to vital Hollywood actor and filmmaker after receiving Oscar nominations in last year’s writing and directing categories for Good Night, and Good Luck and taking home the golden statuette for his supporting turn in the labyrinthine Syriana. Both director and star are likely to be aiming for the Academy Awards with The Good German.

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By the way, there are a few other people working on The Good German that may be worth mentioning. Paul Attanasio, the two-time Oscar nominated writer of Quiz Show and Donnie Brasco, adapted the screenplay for the film. The always exceptional Cate Blanchett immersed herself into the part of screen legend Katherine Hepburn to win her first Academy Award and now she will have to layer on a rough German accent to play Lena Brandt. And there’s Tobey Maguire. I didn’t recognize him out of the Spider-Man costume at first. The actor had a highly diversified career prior to taking on the role of the superhero, but now it feels a little strange to see him in a part other than the bumbling Peter Parker, whom he has played so effectively and effortlessly. His character in The Good German may have some ulterior motives so it might be a nice change of pace for Maguire to take on a role of this sort before Spider-Man 3 hits theaters.

The Good German is adapted from a well-reviewed novel by Joseph Kanon that is part spy thriller, part tender love story, and part historical account. In the book, Kanon successfully paints a picture of a destroyed Berlin and of its confused people, weeks after Nazi Germany’s surrender. The victors’ control over postwar Germany, a society’s collective guilt from the genocide they allowed to happen, and the war’s many frustrating grey areas take center stage in the novel. However, for all of its positive attributes, The Good German has received its share of criticism. Some have contended that the book feels a bit naive and heavy-handed, with rather thinly drawn characters that fit much too easily within neat definitions of good or evil. The story also relies a bit too heavily on absurd coincidences that conveniently push the narrative along. Ultimately it is a good, but somewhat clichéd book that perhaps lacks the edge of a truly brilliant work.

As a historically based thriller that contains elements of romance, The Good German is an ideal candidate for a Hollywood adaptation although I always find it exploitative when a love triangle gets equal billing along side of a serious subject such as post World War II recovery. Shooting the film entirely in black and white may help Soderbergh keep the tone appropriate and the atmosphere fittingly stripped down. I know the director can handle a lavish, moody thriller, complete with an awe-inspiring recreation of a ruined Berlin and of the frenetic behavior of its citizens during those confusing days, but I’m not sure what else he can do with this source. Typically, movies tend to lose the nuances and the details of the novels they are based on, but in this case Soderbergh may have to add to compensate for what the book lacks.

In Conclusion: The idea of a wartime love triangle brings back nauseating memories of the pretentious and preposterous Pearl Harbor, but I would be willing to bet my last penny that Soderbergh will keep The Good German from falling as deeply into melodrama. The talents involved are too first-rate to allow this to happen and will certainly drive audiences seeking an adult drama into the theaters. I would not be surprised if the film goes on to become one of the frontrunners at the Oscars next year, but at this point in time, I feel a little turned-off by the novel’s shortcomings. Still, there are many worse sources for an adaptation.

Similar Titles: Casablanca, Schindler’s List, Veronica Guerin, Traffic
January 19th, 2007 (wide)
December 15th, 2006 (limited)
May 22nd, 2007 (DVD)

Warner Bros. Pictures

Steven Soderbergh

George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire, Beau Bridges, Leland Orser, Jack Thompson, Tony Curran

Total: 33 vote(s).

Drama, Romance, Suspense

Click here to view site

Rated R for language, violence and some sexual content.

105 min





The Good German at AskMen.com

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