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Subtle, if stilted, thought-provoking morality play
pyrocitor13 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
It would be difficult to imagine a more tentative project to undertake than a Holocaust film for numerous reasons. The historical resonance still proving an understandably sensitive or harrowing issue for many audience members requires a certain delicacy in storytelling, faithfully and accurately depicting the horrific events in a fashion just visceral enough to drive the point home without being so gruesome as to alienate audiences. At the same time, the events of the second world war have been approached cinematically so frequently that it becomes equally perilous to avoid restating facts or perspectives than have been presented countless times before, making the latest effort to do so irrelevant. It is in this regard that Good, director Vicente Amorim's adaptation of C.P. Taylor's theatrical production excels - while the film may not be the most harrowing or affecting portrayal of the tragedies of the time, the craftily different approach to which such matters are breached makes for a compelling, if occasionally flawed telling.

There can be little doubt that Amorim's film is hardly an easy watch from its dour subject matter to heavy emotional questions, ranging from euthanasia debates to the values of loyalty versus self preservation and the true scope of one's choices (drawing explicit parallels to contemporary issues as well as past ones), but avoids self-righteous preaching in favour of quietly needling questions. Indeed, Good proves an odd myriad of both decidedly mainstream and unconventional elements, making the story feel somewhat uneven from scene to scene. The sturdy script nonetheless proves rather conventionally crafted for the intriguing premise, with few meaty lines and many supporting characters reduced to stagey, contrived appearances which detract periodically. Yet simultaneously, several unexpected but greatly welcome quirky touches emerge from what may otherwise have descended into formula, such as the odd moment of out of place but oddly fitting humour, or the addition of protagonist Halder experiencing musical hallucinations heralding momentous decisions in his life which impact others. It is ultimately these unorthodox touches which distinguish Good from the countless other films tackling similar subject matter, going about its business in such a laudably nuanced fashion that comparisons become almost unnecessary.

Where other filmmakers may have sought out soaring emotional crescendos building into an explosion of mainstream melodrama, Amorim keeps the intensity festering on a dull burn, his quiet, subtle telling of the story making it all the more sickeningly credible and resonant than a contrived downpour of contrived emotion. However, this does not go to say that the film shirks emotional intensity in the least, but rather builds it so subtly that by the gruesome climax, with shockingly vivid depictions of an SS attack on a Jewish ghetto and a desolate concentration camp sequence the viewer is all the more devastated by the emotional vice which has without warning ensnared them, making Good's finale one which will stick with most viewers for quite some time afterwards.

That being said, the film is hardly without its concerns, as the nonlinear storyline can prove disconcertingly jumpy, undermining some of the emotional tension, and the decision for all German characters to speak with upper class British accents may infuriate some audience members tired of such cultural appropriation. Similarly, Simon Lacey's musical score proves overly melodramatic and distracting where a quieter, more subtle score more in keeping with the tone of the film would have done wonders. However, the unassumingly innovative cinematography (including a Wellesian five minute tracking shot at the finale) is superb, making perfect use of the visually alluring Budapest locations and ably capturing the excellent period costumes and sets.

Designed as a talk piece, the slight imbalance of the script leaves it primarily up to the actors to keep the film afloat, and they mercifully do not disappoint. Viggo Mortensen is superb as Halder, the passionate professor drawn into a world he does not fully understand and continually finding the repercussions of his decisions spreading wider than he could ever have guessed. Mortensen is far from a showy actor, making him the ideal choice for such a character, as, scattered on the outside but festering on the inside, Mortensen conveys the heart of the character far more with his silence than with his words, emanating emotion with every fibre of his being. Jason Isaacs gives a similarly powerful performance as Maurice, Halder's Jewish therapist and close friend and the film's most poignant emotional hook. As Maurice is gradually stripped of his privileges, rights, freedom and dignity step by step, equally outraged by his friend's involvement in the affiliation condemning him, Isaacs transforms from casually confident to beaten down but fiercely outraged, coming alight with fiery intensity. Jodie Whittaker, fresh off a mesmerizing debut in 2006's Venus once again generates charming charisma as Halder's impressionable student and later wife, though her chirpy enthusiasm does prove slightly out of keeping with the more dour tone of later scenes. Mark Strong proves impressively intimidating as a surly Nazi official, but Gemma Jones manages to both delight and infuriate simultaneously as Halder's ill and mentally unstable mother (adding poignancy to his euthanasia stance) who wavers between powerful and affecting and irritatingly over the top, making it difficult to sympathize with one who should have been the sympathetic centerpiece of the film.

While hardly without its structural frustrations, the subtlety and unconventional take on very serious historical issues make Good a deeply compelling, affecting and thought-provoking morality play, mercifully avoiding preaching or Hollywood emotional wrenching in favour of quiet resonance. For any viewers looking for challenging and draining subject matter tackled from a fresh approach, Good should prove the ideal antidote to any watered down mainstream efforts.

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Interesting film developed on Nazi time with fine performances and good setting
ma-cortes13 January 2010
Germany 1933, at the raising Nazi Regime, John Haider (Viggo Mortensen) is a good man, a brilliant professor of literature who has to care his ill mother (Gemma Jones), wife and sons. The professor suffers interruption of some radicals students who burn books in his University's courtyard . He writes a book that defends the euthanasia as method to sure a dignity death to ills. His novel is a upright success in the III Reich hierarchy (Mark Strong, Steven Mckintosh), including Hitler who takes his novel as justifying oneself the dreadful crimes against Jews. The Nazi authorities press and threaten Haider to collaborate with Gestapo and write about legalize euthanasia. Haider is going into the spiral of Nazi savagery. Meanwhile he falls in love with a student (Jodie Whitaker)and his Jewish friend (Jason Isaacs)being besieged by the Nazi pursuers.

This is a splendid drama set on Nazi epoch with thoughtful plot and slick direction .From the sage play by C.P. Taylor, as the producers wish to thanks Royal Shakespeare Company and the original cast and crew of the play. It packs a colorful and appropriate cinematography by Andrew Dunn. Enjoyable musical score by Simon Lacey and including Mahler songs . The flick is well produced by Miriam Segal , as the film is made in memory of his father Ronald Segal whose life's work was dedicated to the betterment of the rights of the others. The motion picture is professionally directed by Austria-Brazilian director Vicente Amorim.

The movie talks about various historic events as happens ¨The night of the broken glass¨ well re-enacted in the film, as the night of November 9, 1938, when terror attacks were made on Jewish synagogues and stores. Two days earlier, Vom Rath, Third Secretary of the German Embassy in Paris , had been assassinated by Grynszpan, a Polish Jew. In retaliation, Himmler (though doesn't appear at the movie is continuously appointed) and Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the SD, ordered the destruction of all Jewish places of worship in Germany and Austria.The assault had been long prepared , the murder provided an opportunity to begin the attack. In fifteen hours 101 synagogues were destroyed by fire and 76 were demolished. Bands of Nazis (one of them is our starring Viggo Mortensen, though unaware) destroyed 7.500 Jewish-owned stores. The pillage and looting went on through the night. Streets were covered with broken glass , hence the name Kristallnacht. Three days later Hermann Goering along with Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbles ( played by Adrian Schiller) called a meeting of the top hierarchy at the Air Ministry to assess the damage done during the night and place responsibility for it. Goebbles proposed that Jews no longer be allowed to use the public parks. It was decided that the Jews would have to pay for the damage they had provoked.
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KubaU5 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Watching this movie has been a fascinating experience, and at the same time I understand why so many people seem to hate it. It has little to no action, an ensemble of seemingly boring characters, and after all, what haven't we seen several times before? Yet I believe that the movie's story is the important factor here. Yes, all the different elements have been here before, but never assembled like this.

What it gives is, in essence, one possible answer to the haunting question - how could it happen? How could normal, civilized, educated people allow and even support what culminated into a world war and the Holocaust? Here you have it - an ordinary, intelligent person, who considers himself to be a good man (and indeed actually might be), with normal problems that plague us all in life. Yet all it takes is a bit of ignorance, or perhaps rather denial, because seemingly everything is just going so well... Suddenly he looks around and discovers that he has become the very symbol of pure evil (very obvious to us today with the black uniform and scull and bones symbols, but oh so mystical, alluring and elite then), who has essentially through inaction allowed his best friend to be sent to death and actually even aided something that stands against everything he believes in.

One cannot help to wonder what would happen next...

Good script, very well filmed and excellent acting, in my opinion.
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Wait... a Nazi/war movie without any violence??
rooprect6 November 2019
If you're looking for a war flick with a lot of action, artillery and things blowing up, you might want to move on. "Good" is a slow moving, subtle, intellectual film that may bore many filmgoers, but if you're looking for more than the typical Hollywood action/war flick then definitely check this one out.

A reasonably faithful adaptation of the famous 1981 play (using much of the same dialogue, scenes and characterizations), this film is about an honest, moral, "good" family man who gets passively caught up in the pro-Nazi movement. All the while, he denies culpability and defends his moral fiber by writing off the movement as a passing phase that's no big deal, but gradually his involvement deepens to the point that he's materially assisting in the worst atrocities that humans have ever committed against one another. For this, the film is deliberately slow because that's the point it's making: that the conversion from "good" to "evil" is not a sudden snap like getting bitten by a vampire and turning into one overnight. Rather, it's a very imperceptible shift that's akin to starting a temp job in the mail room and slowly working your way up the ladder to the executive board before you've realized that you've sold your soul to the corporation.

Viggo Mortensen plays "Halder", a college professor who hates the Nazi party but reluctantly agrees to write a paper for them because he needs the money. Perfectly acceptable choice, right? Well, this leads to another choice which is equally understandable. Then another and another. His Jewish best friend "Maurice" (Jason Isaacs) is the voice of reason, warning him quite forcefully about the seduction of the Nazi party, but like a worsening drug addict, Halder insists that he's doing nothing wrong and he's in control of his moral fiber. At the same time there's another seduction going on: a pretty young student of his (Jodie Whittaker) is slowly drawing Halder away from his wife & family. The story keeps building momentum, and as an added surreal element, Halder begins having hallucinations of strangers singing different Mahler pieces.

The acting is fantastic, not just Viggo's performance but particularly Jason Isaac's portrayal of the friend. The two of them have some great dialogues, and the dynamic of their relationship is really interesting to watch as it changes. This also leads to a very powerful climax at the end of the film.

Far more than a war flick or even a historical piece, "Good" is a powerful, realistic explanation of human nature and how good people can do bad things. And it doesn't matter how moral we may feel about ourselves and our life choices, I guarantee that each of us is at some level guilty of the same insidious hypocrisy shown here. If you accept this and take a sober look at your own life, then this film may make you a better person.

"Good" is one of those films that will sit in your mind for a long time afterwards. I can't think of too many movies that compare, but the pacing and slow buildup to a stunning conclusion remind me of the classics "The Spy Who Came In from the Cold" (1965), or even "Streetcar Named Desire" (1951). If you're looking for other unusual spins on the holocaust, look for the Czech film "Protektor" (2009) or the Italian feel-good holocaust flick (huh?) "Life is Beautiful" (1997). And if you really want your mind blown about human nature, Naziism and the power of authority to turn normal people into killers, go to YouTube and watch the 1962 documentary "The Stanley Milgram Experiment".
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Friendship interrupted
jotix10014 February 2010
Warning: Spoilers
John Halder's life is touched by the advent of the changes in Germany, where he is living. Halder is a professor at a university. His good friend Maurice, a Jewish psychiatrist, fought with him during WWI and have remained a true friend. Their friendship will be put to a test during the course of the story. The advent of the Nazi movement finds John Halder unprepared for what the country will become, questioning his loyalty to his Jewish friend, and the way he treats his own mother.

Although John is married, he is flattered when a young female student, Anne, showers compliments on him. One day Anne shows unexpectedly at his home during a downpour. Concerned about what will happen to her, John decides to put her up for the night, something that is the beginning of his involvement with her and the ruin of his own marriage to the aloof Helen, a woman that doesn't show much affection for him.

One day John is called by a Nazi officer, Bouhler, because Hitler interest in his book in which euthanasia is advocated for terminal cases of dementia and other diseases. Halder is asked to write a propaganda essay in which his own thoughts of eliminating humans can be viewed as a humanitarian good deed. John who enjoys hearing Mahler's music, is suddenly asked not to teach Proust. He doesn't even bat an eyelash when hundreds of books are burned right outside his office window!

The idea that decent German citizens were drawn into the madness that overtook their country during that fatal period of history is the basis of the play by C. P. Snow that dealt brilliantly with the subject. The film, directed by Vicente Amorim, with a screen adaptation by John Wrathall, gives the audience an inside what life was like during the madness that overtook all reason.

Viggo Mortensen, an actor that has done better, is somewhat not at his best, as John Halder. Mr. Mortensen is at a disadvantage playing against such actors as Jason Isaacs, seen as Maurice, the Jewish friend who Halder tries to save without success. Mr. Isaacs is about the best excuse to watch the film. Mark Strong is making a career in portraying subtle villains, as he does with his take of Bouhler. Jodie Whitaker and Steven McIntosh appear as Anna and Freddie. Gemma Jones has some good moments as Halder's mother.
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A very subtle film
karl_consiglio24 October 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I thought it was a very good film. Quite a different portrayal on the topic of Nazi Germany from what we are used to. Shows how at the end of the day, the Germans were not people with horns, everything that was going on was very normal to them, everybody was doing their part in a country that was, after a long period in the dark,was finally thriving. They could not see the full picture. This film makes you wonder what you would have done had you been a German in that period. At first the main character in the film does not even support the Reich, him being a Literature professor, especially after having seen them burn all them books. But by the end of it, he winds up in full Nazi attire. But its way too late then.
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Good men do nothing!
mago19428 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
"Good" is a film made in 2008 by the Brazilian director Vicente Amorim, with Viggo Mortensen and Jason Isaacs in the main roles. The film tells us the story of John Halder (Mortensen), a literature professor, honest and devoted to his duties, who leads, however, in Nazi Germany, a lousy life, in the company of a sick mother, a neurotic wife, demanding children and the pressures on him by a obsessed father-in-law who wants to see her daughter's husband as a member of the Nazy Party.

A romance with a young and beautiful pupil in the university, who seems to love him above all, apparently rescues him from this miserable life, but the worst is still to come: having written a novel centered on the polemic theme of euthanasia, professor Halder is demanded by the authorities of the Nazi Party to write reports on the subject, in order to support the barbarian eugenics experiments perpetrated by the Nazi ideologists against non-Arian people, mission that professor Halder accepts, more because of his fear to displease the man in power than by personal conviction.

The situation evolves in such a proportion that Halder can't control it any longer, making him a famous and influent intellectual, not for the reasons he would believe to be appropriate, but, for his grief, because he is now recognized as an important academic support for the filthy medical manipulations the regime executes, with which he now collaborates.

Halder suffers terribly with that, of course, but he also keeps totally incapable of doing anything about. And when he finally decides to make a courageous act about this situation, and tries to save his best friend from death, Maurice, a Jew, Halder discovers that even the woman he loves doesn't have the noble heart he expected from her, but is nothing more than a cold follower of the Nazi ideology that he, although passively accepting it, in fact, despises.

At the end, the movie arrives to an emblematic scene, in which the story seems to show that John Halder, incapable of slipping away, simply gives in to the barbarism in which that place, in that time, is profoundly sunk: we, then, see a Halder overwhelmed by a psychotic outbreak, revealed by his total lethargy in front of the tragedy he personally and socially lives.

My wife and I found this film certainly well made, but also profoundly sad; and, for that reason, not very easy to see, for one who was looking for an agreeable amusement in a cold Sunday afternoon, during which the best thing to do is to stay home, see a TV show under a blanket and drink wine. Since its beginning, this film totally discarded this possibility, imposing to us the need to think seriously about it.

However, thinking about what? For me, "Good" describes terrible times we are living nowadays, when, surrounded by violence, ignorance, corruption, insensitivity and cupidity, we don't have even the chance of thinking, let alone practicing the opposite of those social flaws: gentleness, wisdom, honesty, sensitivity, and generosity. As a Nazi-dominated society prevented poor Halder of showing those qualities he had deeply inside, our own society currently pushes us to a rather cynical identity, against which any human being reasonably conscious of himself will have to fight continuously and restlessly to avoid his humanity falling into pieces. How difficult it is to be good, the director of this film seems to show us! By the way, it was a surprise for me to see a movie like this directed by a Brazilian director, whose personal identification with the Holocaust or the Nazi Germany I totally ignore, except by the fact that he was born in Austria (circumstance that may be easily explained by the fact that he is the son of a diplomat – his father is the present Foreign Minister of Brazil).

I started asking myself, then, why would he have chosen, specially for the first movie he fully directs, so far, a theme from the current Brazilian real life: in the connection, would the interpretation I gave above to this movie be a proper one, in comparison with the director's intention? None of the other comments I read in IMDb's site speaks of this issue, but prefer to concentrate on the main actor, Viggo Mortensen, or on the recurrent treatment of Nazism as a theme, by cinema, in the most recent years.

I thought my uneasiness with this could perhaps be solved by trying to know something about the original story. It was written by a British play writer, Cecil P. Taylor (1929-1981), on whom the journalist Alan Plater, from "The Guardian", wrote in 2004 an intelligent article ( Plater comments Taylor's production of more than 70 plays and, in this article, we become aware that "Good" was one of the best plays Taylor ever made, and was produced in 1981, the year of the play writer's decease, by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Plater says also that this play resumes a very known Bertolt Brecht's dictum, according to which, "for evil to prosper, good men must do nothing". This important reflection (which I was able to read only after having emitted my opinion on the film, some paragraphs above), by itself gives me the impression that what I thought about the message passed along by Amorim's film is anything but illogical or absurd.
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Lacks the conviction required to take it to a higher level
Otoboke25 September 2009
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 party—eager 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 best—which is humanity, the heart and the choices that both have to make in order to preserve themselves—yet 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 works—if 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 thought—even if they are recycled and a tad overly familiar by now.

  • A review by Jamie Robert Ward (
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It's real
What have I done? What have I done? You can imagine that Professor John Halder (Viggo Mortensen) was asking that question over and over.

He seemed not to understand what was happening to him as he let himself be used by the Nazi's. First, he joins the party, then he loses his lifelong friend simply because he was Jewish. It was only when he was picked to inspect the death camps did he come to a full realization of the depths into which he had sunk.

How do you cook a lobster? If you throw it into a pot of boiling water it will scream and jump out. But, if you put it in water and slowly raise the temperature, it boils before it knows what/s happening. Professor Halder was put in tepid water and the temperature raised gradually until the shock hit him full force, and he could not escape.

Mortensen was very good, but his friend Morris (Jason Isaacs), a Jew, was excellent.
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The down to earth version of Schindler's List
sverrehu6 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Schindler's List is one of my favorite movies. It depicts an Angel-like person during the second world war.

This movie, from the same war, describes a much simpler person and his struggle against himself and the forthcoming 3rd Reich and their extreme ideals.

Both movies are supposedly based on true stories, and even if the protagonist in this movie (John Halder) sort of fails compared to Mr. Schindler, I think both movies deserve their place in the history of WWII biographies.

If Schindler's List touched you, I urge you to watch this movie. If a new storm is coming, there will be many Mr. Halders and few Mr. Schindlers. I'm damn sure I'm a Halder, and that's probably why I liked this film so much.

Congrats on the perfect acting and the beautiful scenography!
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Not so Good
ferguson-615 April 2009
Greetings again from the darkness. The film has the look and feel of a something very important and memorable. Instead, it leaves the viewer feeling quite unsatisfied and actually a bit annoyed.

While a big fan of Viggo Mortensen, this is the first time I felt him over-acting, trying so hard to carry weak material to another level. His character is confused through much of the film, but it appears the actor himself was even more confused over how to create something from this mess. He is not helped by director Vicente Amorin, who is solid with individual shots, but haphazard with continuity and visual story telling.

Jason Isaacs, Jodie Whittaker (Venus) and the always super-cool Mark Strong provide support for the film and prevent it from being a total waste, but none of the material is strong enough to get the film to the level it portends.
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For me, thoroughly enjoyable
stumail2 August 2009
I watched this film expecting little. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find the film educational and interesting throughout. It paints a picture of the 'Jewish Question' and events leading up to it, focusing on a few characters to give it a personal feel.

Granted, some of the acting was a little ropey, but I would urge people not to let that put them off. I have a particular interest in the second World War, and perhaps that makes me biased, but suspect that even those with no interest in that period of time would still be able to let the film absorb them into the plot.

Recommended, 9/10.
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They got the title wrong
MBunge21 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Another entry into the "Nazis were bad" genre, what Good has going for it is an excellent examination of what it's like to be part of a society as it slides down into madness. Whether it is Hitler's Germany, Pol Pot's Cambodia, Mao's China or the guillotine's France, the truth is that people try to live normal lives in denial as long as they can. They make excuses or rationalizations or turn a blind eye until they find themselves in a world of moral chaos. Unfortunately, there's not much here beyond that example. The theme is nothing more than "Nazis were bad" and the personal story of the main character is fragmented and disconnected from the broader tale of his country. Both man and nation descend into evil, but there's no relationship between the two. T he movie starts to make an argument that the horrors of the Third Reich grew out of the hearts and minds of ordinary Germans as much as it did their insane leaders, but never follows through on it. Good is well acted and, after a too flashback-oriented beginning, flows quite nicely. However, it lacks either enough to say about its well-covered subject or enough human drama to captivate the audience. I don't regret seeing it, but I wouldn't recommend it.

John Halder (Viggo Mortensen) is a professor of literature at a German college in the late 1930s, as the Nazis are well into their rise to power. His home life is dominated by his tubercular, senile mother (Gemma Jones) and his fragile, distracted wife (Anastasia Hille). His private life mostly revolves around his Jewish psycho-analyst and best friend (Jason Isaccs) and Halder's school life has just been brightened by a beautiful young student (Jodie Whittaker). Then a novel he once wrote that advocated for merciful euthanasia has come to the attention of Hitler himself, as it nicely fits in with his delusions of how to perfect and purify human existence. That drags Halder into the SS and sees his personal importance skyrocket as his marriage dissolves and his friend is made into a pariah until Halder is forced to confront the atrocity he has become part of.

This is supposed to be a film about how evil triumphs when good men do nothing, with Halder playing the role of such a good man. He's not really good, though. John Halder is nice, which is not the same thing. Nice is passive. It's polite and courteous and obliging. Good is active. You're not good unless you're doing good. Halder isn't a good man who flinches in the face of evil. He's a nice man who never wanted to make a fuss. There's a difference between the two and I don't think these filmmakers understood that. Because of that, they fail to link Halder's decisions or hesitations with either his personal degeneration or the souring of his civilization. He's someone caught up in something bigger than himself, not someone whose actions led to his downfall and serves as a metaphor for what happened to Germany.

It's a shame. That sort of depth would have made this a great film because the surface is a finely woven knit. I don't think I've seen another motion picture that was better than Good and helping the viewer understand that German didn't become Nazi Germany overnight. It took years and a million little steps to reach war and Holocaust and for a long time, perfectly reasonable people could dismiss each little step as unimportant and absurd. And even when those steps became too menacing and deadly to deny, it was too late to raise a fuss without losing everything gained while the problem was ignored. Collective guilt has been shoveled upon the Germans, yet the dynamic that drove them wasn't much different from Americans who tolerated slavery and segregation. The founding and forging of America is bound up with the virtual genocide of the Indian nations. The actual genocide of the Jews was just more rapid, more intentional, more comprehensive and more recent.

If you'd like a smart, but not all that deep, trip back into the world of Aryan supremacy, Good is not a bad choice. If you're looking for something on the topic that is profound or deeply moving, you should probably choose something else.
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The Human Comedy: A Study of Adaptation
gradyharp6 September 2010
A new movement for change, promising a life richer in education, physical prowess, diminished crime, and increased wealth is like a magnet, and the promises that National Socialist Republic created in all forms of the media in the 1930s were probably heady enough that the post World War I Germans could turn a blind eye to the vacuous reality of a rising maniac's promises. GOOD is a film that suggests how the good common people responded to the rise of the Third Reich - the Nazi party with its loathsome guardianship in the Gestapo. It suggests how personal needs could cloud the mind to see only the benefits of a new order that would eventually destroy millions of people and attempt to transform the world in a new social order. And it is painful to watch the disease progress into every aspect of life in Germany.

John Halder (Viggo Mortensen) is a professor of literature and a writer of novels: his latest novel is a fictional story about a man who, out of love for his suffering wife, assists her dying. This novel catches the eye of Hitler and the Reichminister Bouhler (Mark Strong) who encourages Halder to draft a paper describing how euthanasia is a good and righteous act - a paper that will eventually 'justify' the massacre of Jews and other 'undesirables'. Halder's life is in such upheaval (his mother (Gemma Jones) is dying of tuberculosis while living with Halder and his piano obsessed wife Helen (Anastasia Hille) whom he divorces, Halder finds happiness only with a student Anne (Jodie Whittaker) who is fascinated with the Nazi party, and Halder's only close friend is psychiatrist Maurice Israel Glückstein (Jason Issacs) who is Jewish and loathes the Nazi party. Because of Halder's needs in life and also because of the glory he feels being praised for his novel, he agrees to be an 'advisor' to the party. His confrères include Adolph Eichmann (Steven Elder) and Josef Goebbels (Adrian Schiller) and slowly the good man John Halder becomes immersed in the Nazi party.

Maurice, being Jewish and detesting John's alliance with the Nazis, must escape Germany as the Jewish purge begins. His only hope is aid from Halder's Nazi affiliation and he desperately seeks Halder's help. Halder is unable to come to Maurice's aid; Maurice is evacuated and Halder's inspection of the concentration camps makes him face his worse fear about his selling out his morals and honor and his losing his closest friend.

GOOD began as a play by C.P. Taylor and was transformed into a screenplay by John Wrathall. Vicente Amorim directs a cast of mixed experience, but from Mortensen and Isaacs and Jones he draws fine performances. Throughout the film Halder has aural delusions: at times of stress he hears music, a factor that in retrospect makes us question his own stability. The music he hears is a sad rewriting of the works of Gustav Mahler -' Die Zwei Blauen Augen von meinem Schatz', and 'O Mensch!' from the Mahler 3rd Symphony (both sung in English translations by people on the street!), bit and pieces of score quoting phrases from Mahler in a very pedestrian arrangement, and finally orchestral recordings of moments from Mahler's Symphonies No.1 and No.3. The pedestrian quality of the score weights the film down. The cinematography by Andrew Dunn is fine (the film was shot in Hungary). Overall, it feels like this is a strong idea of a statement of what happens to the minds common men in times of crises. For this viewer it simply doesn't accomplish its goal, despite the worthy attempt Viggo Mortensen makes.

Grady Harp
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"Good" is only "Fair"
mackjay22 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Viggo Mortensen (as John Halder) manages a fairly believable character because he gets enough screen time. Unfortunately this is not true for the rest of the characters, who rarely seem more than two-dimensional. Despite the obvious talents of Jason Isaacs, Mark Strong, Steven Mackintosh, Gemma Jones and others, not much of substance comes out of this film. It's almost like a typically tepid made-for-TV drama, earnest in its themes but too mild in its execution, and too short. This is one film of recent vintage that feels not long enough for character and plot development. The story jumps ahead by several years at a time and we piece together the action through dialog. For those already informed, this isn't difficult, but for the rest it may seem too whirlwind and superficial. Comparing John Halder's dilemma to the very similar one of Michael Moriarty in HOLOCAUST (1978) it's easy to see the advantages of more screen time, greater plot detail and a forceful dramatic approach.

But GOOD is not a complete loss. The Budapest locations are pleasing and effective, and the film has one unique touch: the use of music by Gustav Mahler to suggest Halder's subtle connection to a great culture heritage created by Jews. This is effective as long as the viewer realizes we are hearing Mahler every time Halder has one of his strange epiphanies.We can guess that Halder values this music as he values his Jewish friend (Isaacs) and so the ultimate irony is set in motion. Not a bad film, but too mild-mannered and lacking in real dramatic weight.
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A good man does nothing
Prismark103 March 2018
John Halder (Viggo Mortensen) shields himself in academia from the life going on outside in Nazi Germany. His good friend Maurice (Jason Isaacs) is a Jewish psychiatrist. Both fought together in world war one.

John is married with children, his mother has dementia. Yet John has an affair with young student who flatters him, he leaves his wife for her. When the Nazi's express an interest in a novel he once wrote advocating euthanasia he finds himself elevated in subtle ways. Before long John is donning a Nazi uniform, he is promoted while at the same time he seeks help for Maurice to flee Germany.

Good is an adaptation of a stage play by C P Snow. It looks at the idea how ordinary people became drawn to Nazi ideology even just by standing on the sidelines and doing nothing. The film though is rather dreary and stodgy. It lacks heart.
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Better than expected...
seanhmoss623 January 2021
So many tired themes about these times. This one, particularly, stands apart. I just liked it. WATCH THIS MOVIE.
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This movie doesn't show just the Third Reich "moral machine" - it shows the human nature
fabiolebeau-17 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Well, i've read a lot of things about this movie - and some of them just don't seem right. First of all, it's obviously a Third Reich movie, but it has an unique feature - by showing the acts of a man during the national-socialism period, it reveals the true (almost all the time) human nature. Second, Viggo Mortensen was pretty good (sorry my pun) as the teacher that's slowly engulfed by the Nazist government. He was able to translate into the screen a peculiar sensation, a mixture of apathy and will (quite contradictory by the way). The rest of the cast was also amazing (Jason Isaacs, Mark Strong and Jodie Whittaker) - all of them bring veracity to the movie. The end is like a "light in the dark that came too late" - quite a "bizarre but true" end. And that's life... and so are we.
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Vincentiu29 March 2012
it is not good, it is not bad. it is a mirror. the subject is delicate and old. the action is not amazing. the innocence is a not interesting stuff. and yet, it is a beautiful story. a real beautiful story. as a lake in evening. as a rain in park. because, in fact, its subject is not Nazi regime, limits of friendship, need of refuges, relation with political circle but art of survive. way to be yourself. that is axis and purpose is not create a masterpiece but occasion to meditate. the central character is a crumb of family, job or events. innocent, frustrated, for who each door may be escape by himself. he is not a hero. and price of desire to not be hero is sufferance in many nuances, more heavy. in concentration camp he discover color of reality. not the reality. because reality is a mirror who presents his face.
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One of the finest dramas of the past 50 years
jebstrong-128 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This is a simply outstanding film. I saw it when it first came out on the cinema and had to make a huge effort to do so, seeing as it had such limited cinema release but it was well worth the effort. It is a carefully and skillfully made film that manages to evoke some of the feeling that was prevalent in 1930s Germany and that made the rise of National Socialism possible. It was refreshing in that all the characters were much more fully rounded than you normally see in dramas dealing with the same period and thereby make the drama all the more worthy. There are key moments in Good that are almost akin to poetry on film. It will be difficult to forget such scenes as the one where John discusses with Maurice the direction their country is heading and the resultant moral struggle John feels within himself. The script in this scene shows a soul fighting with itself. This is superbly contrasted with the location the conversation is taking place in - a beautiful summer's day in a lakeside park. Such attention to detail as swastika banners fluttering in the wind over the parks' kiosks not only add realism but brings home the constant presence of the National Socialist state within the lives of its citizens. The final scene is a chilling statement of what Halder's choices have brought him to. A thoughtful, beautifully rendered film.
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No sense of time or culture
pawebster24 January 2017
The over-long haircuts of the men, the unkempt hairstyles of some of the women, the non-period clothes, the lack of formal manners... Not for a second could I believe this was Germany in the 1930s.

To make matters worse there is the casual manner of speech and the lack of any attempt to pronounce German names in anything like the correct pronunciation.

Example: a young female student with her hair hanging down to her shoulders any old how, with the demeanour of a student of the 21st century, comes to Viggo Mortensen's office door, looks inside and introduces herself in a very nonchalant manner, "I'm Anne..." Even in the Germany of today this would inappropriate, let alone in pre-war days.

What was the writer thinking? What was the director thinking?
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rps-212 February 2015
Perhaps a little "artsy-dartsy", yes. But this is still a very compelling film that shows the many shades of grey that existed between the black and the white of most war movies. It's the story of a typical German --- a young professor --- who gets swept up in events as he goes along to get along. He sees Nazism as a temporary aberration and even believes he can have a positive influence on it but gets swept up in the movement without really believing in it. Life could be good in Germany before the war if you were not Jewish and were a Nazi or at least appeared to be one. Thus are Professor John Holden and his Jewish friend and fellow world war veteran Maurice caught in the vortex. There are a few extraneous lines in the plot: Holden's senile mother, his failed marriage and the reason for it. They don't seem to serve any purpose other than to add some flesh to a fairly skinny plot. But nevertheless it is both a powerful, well performed drama and a very different glimpse into the everyday life of Nazi Germany before the war.
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I fell for Maurice
swAppp29 May 2009
I never give much attention to the titles of films. Usually titles represent an idea of a film, or a line, or a character. The context of "Good" implies that it was wanted to say "Virtuous people" by the title.

Were SS good people? Decent? Average? Normal? OK? Bearable? "Good" presents a point of view of a person who thought himself to be virtuous, but then faced a society which was completely different, but thought so too.

Viggo Mortensem gives us an interesting character with it's ups and downs, and these ups and downs are in the behavior of a character, not the acting.

Furthermore, it was not the acting or an idea that dragged the film down and bored me or others at certain moments. It was the fact that WWII has been discussed for many times, so there are only minor differences between one film and the other.

Those who haven't watched a lot of WWII films or who would like to see one more example of censure will like "Good".
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Another excellent character role by Viggo Mortensen
Agentman025 April 2021
Another great performance by Viggo Mortensen. It is hard to imagine another lead actor who could have pulled off the complex interplay of John Halder's character woven with his often harried and scattered personal life dealing with a neurotic wife, children and senile mother living with them, plus continue his lectures at the university where he clearly finds his sanctuary in intellectual studies. (Interestingly Viggo has spoken of his own family's history with dementia so this would have informed his performance in some of the intense scenes dealing with Halder's mother). Moreover, Viggo's own sensitivities and soft spokenness play beautifully into the subtle characterizations for Halder (hand gestures, standing, sitting, enjoying a piece of cheesecake) portraying at once a certain innocence, family focused everyday-life myopia and naivety, are perfectly balanced at the smallest individual level in contrast to to the immensity of the monstrous societal currents rising in Germany in the years just before the War and becoming a tidal wave in the 40''s during....that sweep him up with small choices...and lead to the shocking conclusion Halder realizes all too late at the end. This film produced a full eight years after Viggo's Aragorn in LOTR continued to build his impressive body of well considered roles with a message that a viewer will think about for days afterwards.
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Is this movie supposed to be a joke?
scrapmetal730 September 2010
Warning: Spoilers
What were they thinking? This is the least German movie about Germany I've ever seen. It's not just that all of the actors talk with upper crust British accents even though they're supposed to be German, the whole movie looks and feels like it was filmed in London. The soundtrack sounds like a Merchant Ivory production. In fact, the whole movie feels like a Victorian romantic "drama" by Merchant Ivory. It certainly seems more like some comedy of manners. The characters are trite to the point of absurdity, and their lives are dull and painfully self-centered. I only rented this movie to see Jason Isaacs, and he is wasted here.

The dialogue is so absurd. "He wants us to pump out more babies for the Fuhrer!" "I must study history, but WHY!" ..... This movie is a bomb.
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