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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Good
Good
National Entertainment Media // Unrated // September 28, 2010
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Preston Jones | posted October 11, 2010 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

When does honoring one's country become blind allegiance to evil? That's just one of many provocative questions raised by Good, a cinematic adaptation of the late British playwright C.P. Taylor's 1981 play. Effectively a character study of professor John Halder (Viggo Mortensen), who finds himself slowly assimilated into the ranks of the Nazis, Good traces the ascent of the Nazi Party in Germany in the late 1930s, as an otherwise astute intellectual is steadily seduced by the power and prestige of the nascent National Socialist movement and his shocking lack of moral outrage.

It must've been sorely tempting for screenwriter John Wrathall and director Vicente Amorim to draw parallels to contemporary society, particularly America in the wake of 9/11, and its tendency to drift toward us-vs.-them mentalities. Yet, the film shies away from overplaying its hand and is content to let the metaphors breathe. Good flits back and forth in time, from 1933 and the heady days of Halder's debut as a serious thinker and novelist to 1938, with the rise of Nazism and the persecution of Jews, including Halder's good friend, Maurice Gluckstein (Jason Isaacs, who also helped produce the film).

Mixed in amid Halder's slowly dawning crisis of conscience are meandering subplots about Halder's love life -- he abandons his wife, Helen (Anatasia Hille) for his student, Anne (Jodie Whittaker), a more Aryan specimen -- and the gradual estrangement from his mentally ill mother (Gemma Jones). While it deepens Halder's character somewhat, these narrative strands serve only to dilute the quiet dread so effectively achieved elsewhere.

The cast, which includes Mark Strong as a high-ranking Nazi official, is uniformly great, although the peculiar reliance on British accents -- every single character is German, so it's a puzzling choice; sly homage to the material's British roots, perhaps? -- does distract, particularly when the dialogue is spiced with British slang. Nevertheless, Good functions primarily as a showcase for Mortensen, who has, by now, perfected this sort of character, a smart man with a hesitation to do the right thing until it is too late. Given the film's maddeningly sparse release (it opened on just two screens in January 2009, according to IMDb), one can't help but feel that Mortensen missed out on a possible acting nomination.

As the camera slowly pulls back, during Good's horrifying finale, the full impact of Halder's inaction and (willful?) blindness is brought to bear. The playwright Taylor and director Amorim make it clear: Standing idly by while any country embarks upon a path of assured destruction will only destroy one's soul. It's a chilling and timely message -- it was not so long ago that Americans were marching in the streets in a vain attempt to influence national war-time policy -- and one which allows Good to linger long after its final frames fade.

The DVD

The Video:

Good arrives on DVD with a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Befitting a recently filmed production, the image, overall, looks crisp and clean, free from any major defects. Unfortunately, a considerable portion of Good, which transpires in dimly lit rooms and at night, disappears into murk. Details become ill-defined, occasionally rendering director Vicente Amorim's creation as an elegantly rendered reading of the material, as there's little to latch onto visually.

The Audio:

Based upon a play, it should come as little surprise that Good relies heavily upon dialogue to move the plot forward. As such, the English, Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack doesn't have too many opportunities to truly flex its muscle. Aside from a few "action" sequences (mainly of Nazis rounding up Jews and Halder's climactic visit to a concentration camp), the soundtrack is relegated to conveying speech clearly, with no distortion or drop-out. Optional English subtitles are also included.

The Extras:

Good takes the democratic route for its supplements. In lieu of a commentary track featuring only two or three members of the cast and/or crew, there are nearly an hour (59 minutes, 37 seconds, to be precise) of interviews (presented in anamorphic widescreen) about the film and its creation. Actors Viggo Mortensen, Jason Isaacs, Jodie Whittaker, Steven Mackintosh and Mark Strong are included, as is director Vicente Amorim, screenwriter John Wrathall, composer Simon Lacey, producer Miriam Segal, production designer Andrew Laws, dialect coach Andrew Jack and costume designer Gyorgyi Szakacs. Each has fascinating insight into his or her contribution to the film, as well as their take on their character (if applicable) and their thoughts on the film overall. It's a surprisingly thorough assessment of Good from levels not ordinarily considered. Twenty-nine minutes, 41 seconds of behind-the-scenes footage (presented in anamorphic widescreen) is literally that; no narration or subtitles offer any guidance or context. The film's trailer, presented in anamorphic widescreen, completes the disc.

Final Thoughts:

When does honoring one's country become blind allegiance to evil? That's just one of many provocative questions raised by Good, a cinematic adaptation of the late British playwright C.P. Taylor's 1981 play. Effectively a character study of professor John Halder (Viggo Mortensen), who finds himself slowly assimilated into the ranks of the Nazis, Good traces the ascent of the Nazi Party in Germany in the late 1930s, as an otherwise astute intellectual is steadily seduced by the power and prestige of the nascent National Socialist movement and his shocking lack of moral outrage. It's a film with a chilling and timely message -- it was not so long ago that Americans were marching in the streets in a vain attempt to influence national war-time policy -- and one which allows Good to linger long after its final frames fade. Recommended.

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