There are plenty of World War II films where the Nazis are the faceless enemy, but it’s always interesting when a movie shows how things were for those in Germany who were wrapped up in the entire conflict, and even became involved in the fascist regime even if it wasn’t something they believed in and even laughed at back when Hitler first began shouting propaganda.
In Good, a film adaptation of C.P. Taylor’s critically acclaimed play, we follow the life of university professor John Halder (Viggo Morensen), a good, kind-hearted man who lives at home with his emotionally stunted wife, their two kids, and his sick mother, and takes the brunt of the household responsibilities upon himself when there. The film follows Halder over a decade, jumping forward and back throughout the film, following his honorary entry into the SS ranks in the Nazi army in 1937 due to a book he wrote that caught the eye of Hitler, all the way back to 1933 when he began writing said book, and scoffed at the idea of Hitler ever becoming anything more than another voice trying to get attention that would disappear in good time.
Throughout the film we see just how quickly an entire society spiraled out of control during this period, and how people who wished to do only good somehow ended up mixed up in things, if only out of pure ignorance that bigger things were happening, or in a realization that there was not much more they could do other than fold once the Nazi higher ups asked you for a favour. We’ve seen this a few times before, and we know that not every Nazi was a hate-filled racist murderer, though it’s still interesting to wonder what you may have done were you in John Halder’s position, fictional or not, as it did happen, and it’s a scary position to have to put yourself in, even in an imaginary scenario.
The emotional aspects of films like this can be tricky, as there’s always the natural sadness that events like this occur in our world, and that alone can sometimes make a film seem stronger than it may truly be. In Good, the characters do their part to show us just how people changed during this time, and how the changing environment around them caused changes in themselves as well.
Take Hadler for instance, who speaks with his Jewish friend, Maurice Israel Gluckstein (John Isaacs), early in the film about Hitler not being taken seriously, only to later be coaxed into joining the Nazi party. He defends his choice to Maurice saying there’s no better way to steer this thing in the right direction without being a part of it. This implies a sense of good, and understanding of what he has to do as a person to do his part in righting a wrong.
Of course, it’s not that simple, as Hadler soon finds, and he quickly becomes content with ignoring all that’s going on around him in exchange for a better home, and a better job, with the notion that if he just focuses on his work at the university, he’s not a part of the evil machine. It’s an intriguing position it puts him in as a character, one we’re always rooting for to do the right thing, yet frustrated with because he never seems to be doing so, even though we know his hands are somewhat tied.
While there’s always the question of right and wrong, or good and evil, one thing that can never be denied is self-preservation. Even if it isn’t the most heroic thing, or the most pleasing thing to see, it’s natural to think that in a situation where one has to make choices that could alter things to the point of life or death, that one will do all in their power to tilt the weight to the side of life.
Director Vicente Amorim does a good job at keeping the pacing of the film on a constant move forward, even if we’re sometimes going backwards. Speaking of, the time jumps are relatively easy to follow, with only one or two occasions where it takes you a moment to realize just which section of time they’re in. The play was adapted for the screen by John Wrathall, who does a good job at what was likely a hard task, as upon viewing the film, I believe that even though a good job was done here, it would be hard to beat seeing this story done live in a theater.
The acting is commendable, and the scenes between Mortensen and Isaacs make you wish at times that more of the film focused on their friendship, and the hardships it faced due to the happenings of the time. Jodie Whittaker, who was also in the recently reviewed Perrier’s Bounty, once again does solid work, and shows versatility, as I didn’t recognize it was her until I saw her interviewed in the special features.
Good is just that, good. It’s an interesting look at society, and just how quickly things can change in the face of adversity. The World War II setting has stiff competition that films will always be compared to, and unfortunately, this was doesn’t stand out among so many other great choices on the same topic. At the same time, it’s definitely worth checking out if you are a fan of the theme, and the idea of seeing just how people change or react to certain situations may surprise you.
The film is presented in 2.35 Anamorphic Widescreen and looks quite good all around. There are no noticeable distractions while viewing, and no scene that’s darker than it should be, or grainy. The audio is also comes through on the plus side in 5.1 Dolby Digital. The quieter scenes are still completely audible, and the dialogue is always clear and understandable.
Interviews – This featurette is an hour long and contains clips from multiple interviews from the cast and crew of Good that include: Viggo Mortensen, John Isaacs, Jodie Whittaker, Steven Mackintosh, Mark Strong, Director Vicente Amorim, Producer Miriam Segal, Writer John Wrathall, Composer/Music Arranger Simon Lacey, Production Designer Andrew Laws, Dialect Coach Andrew Jack, Costume Designer Gyorgyi Szakacs. Each person talks for various allotments of time, and speak about their characters, thoughts on the film, and work that had to be done on the set. It’s interesting to see the different perspectives of so many people involved, and even though one could argue it could have been put together a bit nicer, it’s still a lot of information to be taken in for fans of the film.
Behind the Scenes – This featurette comes in at just under 30 minutes, and is literally behind the scenes video of the filming of the movie. There’s no voice over, there are no interviews (not that we’d need more after the first featurette) and there’s no music, it’s just the actors doing their thing, and us watching them while mixed in with the crew. It’s actually quite interesting to just see how the sets look, and seeing the actors just doing their thing stripped of everything but their lines. Some scenes that seemed so quiet and closed are really filmed in a small space that’s crammed with 10 other people. Amazing how it all comes together.
Is Good a film worth watching? Sure it is, especially if you’re a fan of the era, or Viggo Mortensen. Everything done here is done on a modest budget, and the story they tell at least comes from a bit of a different perspective than the usual World War II films come from, and is more focused on the human aspect of things over the ongoing war.
Aramid Entertainment Presents Good. Directed by: Vicente Amorim. Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Jason Isaacs, Jodie Whittaker. Written by: John Wrathall. Running time: 95 minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on DVD: September. 28, 2010.
Brendan Campbell was here when Inside Pulse Movies began, and he’ll be here when it finishes - in 2012, when a cataclysmic event wipes out the servers, as well as everyone else on the planet other than John Cusack and those close to him. Brendan’s the #1 supporter of Keanu Reeves, a huge fan of popcorn flicks and a firm believer that sheer entertainment can take a film a long way. He currently resides in Canada, where, for reasons stated above, he’s attempting to get closer to John Cusack.