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Film Two Stars
Good is a film that sounds great on paper but didn't quite play out on its promises. The film stars Viggo Mortensen and is adapted from a stage play and has all the elements of an excellent drama that would look into how someone could be caught up in the rise of a power like Nazism, and much more than caught up, but become an active part of, becoming a member of the SS, watching friends be interned, and still be unaware or unwilling to believe what was actually happening.

It sounded as though it might be a film that would challenge your beliefs, and maybe take you along the same journey of dramatic awakening as the main character sounded as though he would travel. Unfortunately it missed that somewhat.

Good.jpgPlot.pngGood is the story of a professor who has no other real interests than the heavy demands of his family, his writing, and his teaching role. Around him in Germany the Nazi party are on the rise, but he continues with his life, oblivious to what is happening in the world.

Of course it's no real wonder. At home his mother is seriously ill with some form of dementour and his wife is seemingly depressed and totally involved in her music, taking wild mood swings and ignoring her mother-in-laws pleas for assistance during the day while he works. In fact it's clear that when he comes home he has to attend to everything and everyone, while during the day he teaches students whose minds are on larger, more political matters.

However the Nazi party have discovered one of his older books, the story of a man who kills his wife when she becomes so seriously ill that her life is no longer her own, a tale of euthenasia, of love, and of the desire to end the suffering of a loved one. The story is fiction, and yet the party are keen on his ideas, flatter and court him, and pull him into their ranks in order to use this novel, and his other ideas, for the good of the party.

Of course we can instantly make the connection of what this is really about, but he cannot and is swept up with this new life. So much so that it gives him a new outlook on his own, he takes a lover, leaves his wife, and begins anew.

However around him the world is changing, and as he is pushed more and more into the ranks of the SS, those around him are affected by what he has become. His German born and Jewish faithed friend who is under growing threat of losing his identity and his life, and his newly made friend who is a colleague in the SS and struggling to meet the demands of the party.

When he realises the depth and danger of these changes it may just be too late to turn them, or his own life, around.

TheFilm.pngI could be rather glib and say that this is more gormless than good, but that's one of those review catchphrases that doesn't really give you an overall idea of the film. When talking about the character played by Viggo Mortensen though, it's almost spot on.

His character is annoying weak and pathetic, more than you would expect to be easily led, and pushing into the realms of irritating to the viewer. In some key early scenes where he's looking after the family it does seem like a terrible sitcom, where his character is playing Frank Spencer, bumbling and fumbling with everything, being pulled by every member of his family in different directions, and struggling with what to do next.

Through the film the character never gets much better, even when his friend's life is falling apart under the regime, or when he's settled down with his new, young lover. Throughout this his character remains weak willed and uninteresting, there's no way that you are drawn to him or feel sympathy for him.

There are some flashes of interest later on, when he does start to realise the scale of events and take some control, but to be honest by then it's far too late and any chance of connecting with him has been lost to irritation.

It's not just Viggo Mortensen that provided great promise for the film, but also Jason Isaacs. Mortensen doesn't deliver that expectation, but it is fair to say that Isaacs does. His character is very interesting and the downward spiral we see from him at each meeting is well portrayed. I found his best moments were in his rundown and boarded up apartment serving a meal to his friend who he clearly knows is in the SS but is the only person he can turn to. During this scene he goes through a range of emotions, struggling with his desperation and fear. His performance is very strong, he just doesn't have enough screen time to make the overall film better.

There's also Steven Macintosh to consider, he plays Mortensen's character's colleague in the SS, and although he begins as a typical officer that you would see in other Nazi films, later on he shows a lot more depth and promise, but again it's an on/off switch, and once he shows this promise of more to him and their relationship, his character is left by the wayside. I really did feel this was a blow to the film and these characters could have been pursued to give an interesting counter balance to the professor and his Jewish friend.

There's a continuing theme of music throughout the film, particularly when the main character hears a recurring musical piece at key, stressful moments.

It's an interesting thematic choice, and probably works well on the stage, but in the film it feels very out of place, and the ploy to connect the story together just doesn't quite work and doesn't feel cohesive.

These moments actually feel rather fantastical and stand out from the serious side of the story. Dropping a Disney moment into the middle of a film about someone being drawn into the Nazi party just doesn't feel right. Of course I know what the moments are trying to do, but it was all or nothing, he's hearing music and no one around him is too bothered, or he's struggling with what the Nazi party are doing around him.

It's not just the character development that doesn't feel quite right, but the development of the events around him and his involvement in them. You would expect that an intelligent character caught up in the events of the rise of the Nazi party might be a little more aware of the dangers and what they were doing in the background, after all he certainly seems to be aware before he joins.

Yet it's a mere few moments of flattery that seem to win him over, coupled with a little fear, and then events seem to take distinct leaps around him. I never really got the sense that he would have turned around and been genuinely surprised at the latest events happening around him, to the viewer they are obvious and life threatening.

Instead he seems oblivious to the fact that his friend has no work and is being hounded out of Germany, that his flat is boarded, covered in abusive and threatening graffiti, and that he's scared for his life, that people are being rounded up and thrown in to trucks. Even before these leaps there seems to be plenty opportunity for his character to reason with what is happening and get out of it.

I did think that the idea of the film was to slowly develop the events around him so that he wouldn't realise what was happening until it was just far too late for him. This just doesn't feel like the case though.

Speaking for myself, the viewer certainly realised what was happening very early on as his friend makes us understand very early on. Even his SS colleague spells out the dangers, and yet he remains oblivious.

Some of this might not have been helped by the editing of the story as it did seem to leap quite a lot from key moment to key moment.

I think if this build up had been smoother and the lead character given more depth, strength and intelligence, we could have seen an incredibly powerful film with much to say about how easily someone could become caught up terrifying events such as this, and how seemingly ordinary people could not realise that they were part of something far bigger and terrifying than they realise.

It's one of the questions asked time and time again about how people can fall behind groups committing atrocities or genocide and not realise what they are involved in. It's a story that many could find incredibly compelling, and yet Good seems to promise this idea and totally mishandle it at the same time.

Overall.pngGood has so much potential, but it really does fumble the main premise quite badly, the idea that someone can be pulled into a terrifying situation without realising what is happening on the outside, and what they have become involved in until it's too late. For this to work I really thought that they had to carefully build on the events happening around him so that this professor and teacher wouldn't realise.

However that premise is broken early as we are shown that he does realise, and that he's well aware of the dangers of Nazism, and the sitcom opening breaks down the desire to take the character seriously, something compounded by the wet blanket nature of the character.

There are a number of issues with the film, and with underused characters and actors, and the often surreal moments of the script, and with that I struggled to be drawn into the character and his confusion, much less feel any form of anything at the ending of the film.

Buy or rent the DVD from LOVEFiLM
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UK IMDB Film Details



I saw a production of the play that this was based on and it was excellent. I had a pretty good feeling that the movie wouldn't live up to the play though. There was a lot of stuff that worked really well on stage but wouldn't work in a movie.

I will probably catch the movie anyway just for the heck of it, but I was not expecting much.


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