The Good German

Movie review by
Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media
The Good German Movie Poster Image
Clooney stars in thoughtful, complex noir mystery.
  • R
  • 2006
  • 105 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Sometimes-noble reporter seeks to solve murder in post-WWII Potsdam; discussions of Nazis; lots of illegal activity and cover-up by Russians, Germans, and U.S. military/government officials.

Violence

Fights are brutal (kicking, punching, drawing blood); murder victims appear with visible bullet wounds/blood.

Sex

An explicit sexual act (woman in shadows on bed, man has sex from behind her); Hannelore performs feather/strip dance in club (shadowy); Hannelore strips to her underwear and invites Jake to have sex with her (using explicit language); Hannelore and Lena work as prostitutes (discussed frequently).

Language

Frequent and various language: "f--k" (30+), "s--t" (10+), "hell," and "ass," as well as single use of "c--t." Also, disparaging use of "Jew."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Smoking cigarettes and/or drinking in nearly every scene, as befits a "noir" update.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this black-and-white, 1940s-style "film noir" isn't likely to appeal to kids. Its plot includes references to Nazis, war crimes, and the atomic bomb, as well as lots of strong language and violence (beyond what typified the era). Characters frequently say "f--k"; there's also one use of "c--t" and an anti-Semitic remark. Violence includes beating, kicking, and shooting (resulting in bloody wounds). Sexual imagery includes a woman stripping, a rough sexual act (the woman's figure and face are in shadow), and some kissing. Several references are made to Lena's work as a prostitute. Characters smoke incessantly (it's 1945) and drink like fish.

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What's the story?

In 1945 Germany, reporter Capt. Jake Gesimar (George Clooney) arrives in Germany to cover the Potsdam Peace Conference. He immediately clashes with his younger driver, Corporal Tully (Tobey Maguire). Where Jake is principled, if cynical, Tully is at once naïve and slick, and involved in criminal activities. The men's differences come to a head over a prostitute named Lena (Cate Blanchett) who's currently Tully's girlfriend and was formerly Jake's lover. Soon Jake is embroiled in a murder case involving the insidious Russian General Sikorsky (Ravil Isaynov) and covered up by crafty U.S. Colonel Muller (Beau Bridges). Jack is helped and stymied by Congressman Breimer (Jack Thompson) and war crimes prosecutor Bernie Teitel (Leland Orser). Bernie is an old friend of Jake's and doesn't trust him, but is invested enough in tracking down the now-scurrying-away Nazis that he makes deals with whomever will help him do it, be it Jake or the U.S. military.

Is it any good?

A thoughtful, complex film, The Good German is Steven Soderbergh's latest expansion of stylistic and thematic boundaries. Shot in black and white, the movie focuses on the moral and political dilemmas emerging from the Potsdam Peace Conference, where, an epigraph asserts, Harry Truman, Winston Churchill, and Josef Stalin gathered to "draw the postwar map."

Lena and Jake's passionate past -- as well as a scene at a rainy airport -- evokes Rick and Ilsa in Casablanca. But Jake's efforts to do the right thing are repeatedly complicated by others' greed and desire for vengeance. The film ends with a Stars & Stripes headline announcing that the United States has just dropped the atomic bomb on Japan. Even as WWII comes to a horrific end, the Cold War is already in motion.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the film's attempts to mimic 1940s style and culture. How is the era presented differently in this movie than in films actually from that time period? How does the movie's explicit language and violent imagery alter your idea of what 1944 might have been like? How do Lena and Jake form a romantic couple that is at once old-fashioned (sentimental, nostalgic) and like those in present-day movies (cynical, passionate)?

Movie details

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