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The Good German (0/10)

by Tony Medley

I guess I knew that there would be payback. Actually, I expected it. I’ve seen several wonderfully entertaining films lately, so, certainly, someone was laying for me. And it was George Clooney. After seeing films like “Little Children,” “Apocalypto,” and “Blood Diamond,” films with good scripts and expert actors like Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, it was only natural that I would be forced to sit through a dismal production like “The Good German” with such inept performances given by Clooney and Cate Blanchett.

Blanchett, at best, gives a bad impersonation of Marlene Dietrich. Why couldn't director Steven Soderbergh have found a German actress to play the role. At least the accent would have been legitimate. Soderbergh said he was trying to make a film the way it would have been made in the '40s. But in the '40s her role probably would have been given to a real German, like Dietrich or Hildegarde Neff. But Blanchett shouldn’t take all the criticism for her performance (just most of it) because she is arguably following Soderbergh's direction, and reading the lines of screenwriter Paul Attanasio.

The convoluted story has Jake Geismer (Clooney) as a disgruntled journalist in love with Lena Brandt (Blanchett) whose husband, Emil (Christian Oliver), is being hunted by the bad Americans (that the Americans are the heavies in post-war Berlin shouldn’t come as a surprise to Clooney followers) for his papers that apparently describe how to make a bomb or a rocket or something like that. The movie is so bad that it was very difficult to do anything but look at your watch and will it along so that the 105 minutes would expire.

If possible, the cinematography (Peter Andrews along with uncredited Soderbergh) is worse than the acting and the directing. Soderbergh said he wanted this to look like the black and white movies of the ‘40s. If so, he apparently never saw a black and white movie of the ‘40s because this looks just exactly what it is, a black and white film by someone who didn’t know what he was trying to copy. The contrasts are horrible, the blacks too black and the whites too white. It’s a mishmash of ignorance.

But what really sets this movie apart is Blanchett’s incredible over-acting. She says her lines as if she is setting up a slow, depressing Dietrich song. I guess her campy looks isn’t her fault because that’s how the filmmakers chose her to look, but her acting is certainly primarily her fault. She is so off the wall that she detracts from the clumsy job Clooney puts in. If Blanchett weren’t in the movie, Clooney’s performance would be more noticeable. It’s a close call about which is worse, the acting of Blanchett and Clooney, the directing of Soderbergh, the writing of Attanasio, or the cinematography of Andrews.

December 11, 2006