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
When Geismar checks Lena's file in the Records archive at Military Government headquarters, he discovers only a note in the folder saying the file has been "sent to Overcast." Operation Overcast was the U.S. Army's 1945 operation to bring German rocket scientists (such as Wernher Von Braun) and their families to America following the end of the war. (It was later re-named Operation Paperclip.) See more »
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 »
They want me to decide who the ardent Nazis were. Truth is, it was the whole country. Nobody's hands are clean.
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All the logos appear in black and white, while the Warner Brothers logo appears in the forties old style See more »
The narrative is hit by the focus on the style but mostly the film works
Journalist Jake Geismer arrives in Berlin to cover the Potsdam conference. Assigned soldier Patrick Tully as his driver, Geismer soon finds that the cheerful, happy-go-lucky driver is also a quite violent man, tied up with a prostitute named Lena. This is Geismer's second shock as Lena turns out to be an old flame before she turned to selling herself in order to survive. Whenever a body is found in the Russian sector, Geismer finds the authorities unable or unwilling to investigate the crime and is himself drawn into the shady affair.
Like Theo Robertson before me (so often the way here), I had reasonably low expectations for this film, partly due to the so-so reviews and "hit and run" appearance in cinemas in the UK and US alike. Watching it I can understand why it did come and go so quickly because it is not the most modern or immediately engaging of films if you look at it just on the surface. Underneath there is actually a solid political drama narrative that may not be as well done as I would have liked but was still interesting and well delivered. Part of the problem is also part of the appeal of the film and this is the style and feel of the film.
Made in several regards as if it had been made in the mid-1940's, this film seems to have been a project for Sodenbergh to try to pull it off. I'm pleased to say that he has achieved it and that the film has the air of the period (in regards the making of the film rather than the place and period that the film is actually set). The problem is that so much focus seems to have been put on this and not enough on the delivery of the plot. By deliberately shooting on sound stages and in a rather stiff fashion the film cannot help but stiffen the way it all plays out and it does rather rob the narrative of urgency and thrills that it could easily have had in spades. It is a trade-off though, because stylistically the film is very interesting even if I wasn't totally sure the trade was always a good one.
The cast do well to do quite an unnatural style of delivery but still engage with the audience and convince. Clooney holds back his easy charm and delivers in line with the spirit of the overall product, although I can see why his performance didn't please many of those that do love him. Maguire is much more interesting, mixing the typical bright-eyed GI character with something much darker at the same time. Blanchett also impresses with a solid performance as Lena. These carry the film although it is worth noting the good support from Bridges, Isyanov and others. The main impression left on me though came as a result of the Soderbergh as cinematographer as he captures the actors and sets with great style.
Overall a great looking film with a solid, but not great, narrative driving it. It is a shame that the former seems to have come at the expense of the latter and that the trade-off is not totally worth it but it is still an interesting and engaging film.
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