Made with vintage film equipment in order to give it an authentic 1940s look, The Good German is a bleak, humorless, black and white film centered around the Potsdam conference at the close of WWII, in which Russia, Britain and the U.S. negotiate with each other to clean up the war with treaties.
Returning to Germany, Captain Jacob 'Jake' Geismer, played by George Clooney, chances upon a former lover Lena, played by Cate Blanchett. The Americans are very interested in German missile technology and the hunt is on to gather up German rocket scientists to whisk them away to the U.S., even if it is necessary to hide their roles in participating in the Holocaust. Lena is tied into this and is anxious to leave Germany.
Kudos for the look of the film, but it failed to gain traction with me since it felt slow and I didn't really care much for the characters. The Lena character was also not very appealing with her sour demeanor. She's obviously unhappy and either carrying a heavy burden or has had her spirit defeated due to the daily struggling to survive the war as a hooker with very important secrets to keep. Man-boy Tobey Maguire shows up early on as a military driver flush with money from his black market dealings but he didn't seem credible as Lena's current lover. The IMDb claims that Blanchett studied Marlene Dietrich and Ingrid Bergman in order to play Lena, but we just don't gain enough insight into her character to want to care for her.
George Clooney's character also didn't have the depth of passion needed to inject fire into the strained relationship between the Captain and Lena.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh, who was nominated twice in 2000 for an Oscar for both Traffic and Erin Brockovich, and won Best Director for Traffic, this film was daring but ultimately not a triumph. He's had mixed success as a director, having arrived on the scene with 1989's Sex, Lies and Videotape. Solaris was another one of his films starring George Clooney, and while I liked it, it wasn't well received. The two Ocean films starring Clooney and today's rat pack have also disappointed, but Soderbergh remains an unpredictable director, willing to take chances, and his films, by and large, do not resemble one another.