tek's rating: ¾

The Good German (R)
IMDb; Rotten Tomatoes; Warner Bros.; Wikipedia

Caution: spoilers.

The movie is set in July 1945, after World War II had ended in Europe, but before it ended in Japan. Though it came out in 2006, it's in black & white, and in plenty of other ways it imitates noir films from the era in which it's set. So, I liked that about it. I definitely thought it was a good-looking movie, and well-acted all around, and the story was okay... but not really good enough for me to like the movie as much as I'd hoped I would.

In the beginning, the film is basically from the point of view of an American corporal named Patrick Tully (Tobey Maguire), who works in the motor pool. He's assigned to be the driver for a journalist named Captain Jacob Geismar (George Clooney), who has returned to Berlin to cover a peace conference. (He'd spent some years in the city before the war, I guess.) At first, Tully seems like a good-natured but not especially bright old-fashioned small town American GI, but we soon learn he's actually running any number of illegal business operations. And he's dating a prostitute named Lena Brandt (Cate Blanchett). After awhile, we find out that Jake and Lena were once lovers (and he was her boss at the newspaper), before he left Berlin. Anyway, one day Tully goes to see Lena at her place, and some guys are there, wanting to know where someone named Emil Brandt is, but Tully has never heard of him (at that point, he didn't even know Lena's last name). So they break his arm. Still, he figures out who the guys were working for, and it's someone he's had business dealings with, so he goes to the guy and offers to turn Emil over to him for two hundred thousand marks... even though he has no idea where Emil is or even who he is. Except that he does find out Emil was Lena's husband, who supposedly died in the war six months ago. Anyway, the deal gets made, but... Tully ends up getting killed.

The next part of the film is from Jake's point of view. He begins investigating Tully's murder, and trying to figure out why everyone- Russians and Americans, and probably Germans and British- want to find Emil. This means spending a lot of time with Lena, though she keeps moving to different places to hide from everyone who wants to get to her, so that she could help them get to her husband. (She doesn't seem very happy to have Jake following her around, in spite of his desire to help her.) Jake also gets some help from an old acquaintance of his named Captain Bernie Teitel, who works in the Records Division. Though the two of them don't seem to be on very friendly terms. Also there's a Scottish bartender named Danny, who seems to be friendly with both Lena and Jake, who is of help to them, mainly in finding places for Lena to hide out. There are various other characters I should perhaps mention, such as an American colonel played by Beau Bridges. (At least I think he was American, I really was rarely entirely sure about anyone.) Anyway... eventually the movie is shown to some extent from Lena's perspective. I mean, at different times in the movie there was a bit of narration by Tully, then Jake, then Lena. But I suppose it was always sort of from different perspectives, or maybe just the audience's perspective, throughout the movie. Certainly after Lena's bit, it quickly seemed to me to become... unclear who the protagonist actually was.

Anyway, we do learn various things throughout the movie, about Emil and why he's important. And we eventually see Emil, and learn why he wants to get out of Berlin. He definitely seems to be the titular "good German." But really he's not much more than a MacGuffin. And I don't want to spoil any of the reasons behind all the stuff that's going on. But... eh, it was all sort of interesting, I guess. Just not too interesting.


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