The rise of national socialism in Germany should not be regarded as a conspiracy of madmen. Millions of "good" people found themselves in a society spiralling into terrible chaos. A film about then, which illuminates the terrors of now.
John Halder is a 'good' and decent individual with family problems: a neurotic wife, two demanding children and a mother suffering from senile dementia. A literary professor, Halder explores his personal circumstances in a novel advocating compassionate euthanasia. When the book is unexpectedly enlisted by powerful political figures in support of government propaganda, Halder finds his career rising in an optimistic current of nationalism and prosperity. Seemingly inconsequential decisions lead to choices, which lead to more choices... with eventually devastating effect. Written by
Lacks the conviction required to take it to a higher level
Long before the advent of the third Reich, Hitler and their persecution of the Jews in the 1940's, Edmund Burke once now infamously said that all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing; to know in their hearts and see the evils going on around them, but to sit back and let it unfold whether out of fear, apathy or both. Good, which sets about detailing the profile of a man who fits this description almost perfectly after he gets involved with the Nazi party unwillingly, deals with the central premise of Burke's evaluation, and does so whilst keeping in mind the humanity at play when struggles of good and evil take precedence. At times sombre and reflective, at others a tad monotonous and pedantic, director Vicente Amorim's film nevertheless takes a large page of history and gives it a small, introspective look at how easily evil can overcome one's life without even knowing. As a set piece, it lacks the conviction required to take it to a higher level, but certainly as a small, somewhat humbled character piece, Good serves its purpose well.
It is of no surprise to learn that the film's screenplay was adapted from a play written by C.P. Taylor; the same themes that carried said play, permeating the entirety of Good's makeup in a way that consistently reaffirms its central ideas and philosophies. While features such as these which deal with the holocaust, the Second World War and the Nazi party with a sense of distilled reality and less than realistic shades of grey when it comes to the portrayals of those behind the uniforms, screenwriter John Wrathall's adaptation stays true to the disquieted approach of Taylor's play and documents the fall of a good man into the hands of his enemy; the censoring, dictating, and anti-semantic nationalist socialist partyeager to segregate the Jews and "cleanse" the new Reich of their influence. Indeed, one of the most important and significant aspects to Amorim's feature here is that here we are invited to see the transformation not only of a country, but of a singular man who remains true to his heart throughout, but fails to notice his outward transformation until one chilling scene where he looks into the mirror to see a man he wouldn't be able to put a name to.
Aside from Viggo Mortensen's obtuse performance which takes him away from his most recently extremely self-aware roles, across from him lays Jason Isaacs who plays his best friend, a Jewish Psychotherapist. Of course, right from the get-go you know where all this is going; and therein lays the only real problem with a story such as this. While Hollywood cinema has been reluctant up until the most recent years to let the Evil from the East be given a face and a soul, even though Good comes at a time when this wave of drama is catching some momentum, you can't help but feel like you've heard all this before in some way or another. Taylor's play does well to stick at what it knows bestwhich is humanity, the heart and the choices that both have to make in order to preserve themselvesyet the moral play at hand here is largely innocuous and unenlightening enough to pass as something of a footnote to this kind of philosophising that has been going on, well, long before Burke even uttered those famous words.
With this being said however, Good, if taken lightly, offers up a nevertheless well crafted and mostly harmless take on the human condition in a manner which doesn't tax but at the same time doesn't cause one to drift to sleep either. With some fine performances from both Mortensen and Isaacs, as well as femme-fatale of sorts Jodie Whittaker and TB-inflicted mother Gemma Jones, the ensemble that dominates the screen here does well to reinforce the feeling of humanity throughout to the point where plotting and overt thematic material becomes secondary to the real conflicts at hand. As a drama, the movie worksif only barely. It's by no means something that is required viewing for just about anyone, but when it comes to movies dealing with the behind-the-scenes transformations of a country and its people during times of social reformation and war, Good has enough to satisfy and provoke thoughteven if they are recycled and a tad overly familiar by now.
A review by Jamie Robert Ward (http://www.invocus.net)
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