Good – Review

7 May

I remember exactly when I bought Good, solely because I have no idea why I did. It was a strange moment when I was holding the case, staring at it with a strong urge to buy it. I never heard a peep about this movie, but for some reason or another, I decided to add it to my collection. Popping it in for the first time,  I was worried that my intuition would be wrong, but I was pleasantly surprised.

John Halder (Viggo Mortensen) is a literature professor who is offered an honorary position in the Nazi party because of a novel he wrote with themes of euthanasia. As a man who is against many of the positions of the party, he is reluctant to join, but feels like he must in order for his career to progress. Over time, Halder finds that his steadfast morals are beginning to erode, especially when he must decide to be faithful to the party or to his Jewish best friend, Maurice Glükstein (Jason Isaacs).

The strength of this film is its ability to be incredibly powerful and moving in such an understated way. There is really nothing in Good that is overblown or flashy. Its best scenes are the ones between a couple of people sharing an incredibly intimate or intense dialogue. There is an excellent scene where Halder is at a concentration camp dressed in full SS attire. As he walks the grounds, we follow him and witness disturbing actions that take place around him. He is obviously affected by what he sees, but is ultimately powerless and is merely a cog in the Nazi regime.

Viggo Mortensen gives the best performance of his career in my opinion, playing a quiet but convictive character who is full of both intellect and flaws. Jason Isaacs gives a more overt performance as the socially tormented Jew, Glükstein. Gemma Jones gives a phenomenal performance as Hadler’s ill mother who is both disapproving and loving. On a side note, Mark Strong was briefly in the movie, and while his performance isn’t as special as the others, it was surprising and cool to see him.

The location and cinematography are fantastic. Being shot in Hungary, the film has a very European look, and and beautifully captures the time period of 1933-1942. There are times where the surroundings seem very theatrical, which is appropriate considering this is based off of a play of the same name by C.P. Taylor. The cinematography also stands out. There is excellent implementation of shadow, which give some of the more dramatic scenes more emphasis. There are exterior scenes which also make great use of natural light. There are also scenes where the camera flows really nicely, although there isn’t much to really rant and rave about, save for an excellent long take near the end. All in all, this film is aesthetically beautiful.

Good is great. I feel like not enough people know about this film, and it doesn’t really get the appreciation it deserves. Sure, it is nowhere near as epic as Schindler’s List or The Pianist, but it succeeds at giving audiences a more subtle look at the slow burning beginning of the Holocaust and how good people ultimately became a part of it, even if they had no intention to. It is a powerfully moving film with excellent performances and should be seen by everyone.

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