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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
Sikorsky examines some currency, paying close attention to the serial numbers. He's shown examining the bills: their serial numbers are rendered in an OCR (Optical Character Recognition) typeface, which wouldn't be introduced until decades later the period of this film. See more »
Worth seeing, but I wish it were better than it is
Soderbergh is a director with a decent amount of guts but not a lot of talent. Here he attempts to make a classic Hollywood film, reminiscent of The Third Man and Casablanca, by mimicking, or at least trying to mimic, the classical style of cinematography, by scratching the negative, having the dialogue recorded on mono (I think), and having the actors deliver performances along the lines of the studio days. The gimmick honestly doesn't work all that well. Lovers of classic films will notice how different the film-making is from that of the '40s. How hazy the cinematography is compared to Casablanca or The Third Man (it looks like you're watching a movie on a black and white television). Or how much more swearing and sexual content there is in the film. Yes, the gimmick is a weak one and somewhat detrimental to the rest of the film. Otherwise, it's a pretty good mystery. Not a great one. The pacing lags in the middle, and the mystery only starts to make sense right near the end, when much of the audience has stopped caring. The film's strongest asset is Cate Blanchett, who channels Marlene Dietrich. She is easily one of today's best actresses, and the only cinematographic triumph of the film is the lighting of her face she's drop-dead beautiful. I'll probably be hung by the nostalgists, but I'd take her in both her acting skills and beauty over the lead actresses of Casablanca and The Third Man. George Clooney is decent, but his character is fairly two-dimensional. He's a pretty boring hero. I really liked Tobey Maguire, though. His character was much more interesting, and I wish he could have been in the movie more. I absolutely loved the climactic sequence, but the film continues on for too long after that. Blanchett's big revelation at the end feels rather anticlimactic.
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