Berlin, July, 1945. Journalist Jake Geismer arrives to cover the Potsdam conference, issued a captain's uniform for easier passage. He also wants to find Lena, an old flame who's now a prostitute desperate to get out of Berlin. He discovers that the driver he's assigned, a cheerful down-home sadist named Corporal Tully, is Lena's keeper. When the body of a murdered man washes up in Potsdam (within the Russian sector), Jake may be the only person who wants to solve the crime: U.S. personnel are busy finding Nazis to bring to trial, the Russians and the Americans are looking for German rocket scientists, and Lena has her own secrets. Written by
Steven Soderberg is a hit-or-miss director. Either his films are acclaimed and loved by most, or they're infamous and hated. Having read the reviews, and having heard the negative buzz, I was expecting a miss. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised.
The film was mesmerizing. Say what you will about it, you have to commend Soderbergh on his cinematography skills. Black and white hasn't looked this good since "The Man Who Wasn't There". It was so rich, with so many textures. I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. Definitely some of the best looking cinematography I've seen this year.
Also the score is great. It evokes just the right noir-ish atmosphere. The editing is crisp and clever. All of the technical elements of this movie are flawless.
I heard people complain about the story and the acting. I thought the acting was great. Clooney looks like he just came out of the 50's. He reminded me of Cary Grant. Cate Blanchett is perfect as the femme fatale. I can't think of any better casting choices for an old school film noir than these two.
I also thought the story was engaging, even though it was sometimes confusing. I loved the way the information was dispersed, and the fact that the film changes perspectives, and at different points it's narrated by different characters. Some of the revelations in the plot were really sophisticated.
Making this film the way it was made, using old school techniques, lighting, camera lenses, etc. was a gutsy move. I applaud Soderbergh for his experimentation. And I thin it's a successful one - it really feels like a 50's film noir classic. I wouldn't say it's Soderbergh's best film, but it's certainly one of his his most unique ones, and a return to form after a string of failures. I highly recommend it.
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