While it’s certainly not difficult to see just what filmmaker Steven Soderbergh set out to accomplish with The Good German – ie a ’40s movie filtered through a contemporary sensibility – there’s absolutely no overlooking the various deficiencies within Paul Attanasio’s unreasonably complicated screenplay. Based on Joseph Kanon’s novel, the film follows American military journalist Jake Geismer (George Clooney) as he investigates a murder that directly involves his ex-girlfriend (Cate Blanchett) and her new lover (Tobey Maguire). Soderbergh has successfully replicated the look and tone of a 1940s drama – the movie even opens with a vintage Warner Bros. logo – but the almost total lack of character development ensures that the novelty wears off all too quickly. The film’s various positive attributes – including Soderbergh’s lush cinematography and Blanchett’s surprisingly effective performance – are subsequently rendered moot, particularly as the storyline becomes increasingly convoluted and flat-out baffling. Attanasio’s refusal to offer up any elements designed to draw the viewer in ultimately transforms The Good German into an awfully tedious experience, and there’s little doubt that classic movie enthusiasts would be better served by an umpteenth viewing of Casablanca.
*1/2 out of ****