The Good German

Warner Brothers is promoting this World War II drama as high-toned Oscar bait, but it's best appreciated as a big-budget experiment: adapting a contemporary novel, director Steven Soderbergh set out to re-create the look of classical Hollywood filmmaking with old-school equipment (boom mikes, incandescent lighting, fixed-length lenses) and production techniques (filming a scene shot by shot rather than covering a single take with multiple cameras). Set in postwar Berlin, the story involves prostitution, black marketeering, and the death camps, and the tension between the visual style and the adult story makes the movie pretty engrossing—it's an R-rated Casablanca. The pace slackens badly in the second half, but I have to admire an ostensibly nostalgic entertainment that so concertedly undermines the romanticism of wartime Hollywood. With George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, and Tobey Maguire. R, 107 min.

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