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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Good (review)

No actor has ever looked less comfortable in a Nazi uniform than Viggo Mortensen does in this tepid morality play (based on the stage play by C.P. Taylor) about ethics, wisdom, and how readily some otherwise intelligent and upright people can dispose of them. Good thing it’s thematically appropriate that Mortensen’s John Halder is uneasy wearing the swastika — too bad the moment when the mild-mannered literature professor of 1930s Germany dons the uniform for the first time, near the end of the film, is one of the few moments of real feeling to be found here. The film lets Halder, the epitome of the “good” people who do nothing and so allow evil to thrive, travel from “Hitler is a joke, he’ll never last” to “I never thought it would come to this” with a docility that should underline the effortlessness with which men like Halder could ignore the little voice of conscience in their head telling them they were giving in to wrong, but instead it seems to suck all emotion out of the film. In aiming for subtlety and finely shaded grays, Good gets washed out. Still, Mortensen’s (Eastern Promises) performance is very fine indeed, and there are a few stinging zings: one is an ironic tribute to the fanatical recordkeeping of Nazis, and the other is the final scene of the film, when Halder at last recognizes the evil all around him, and retreats to a place inside himself that, we wonder, he may never escape.

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watch at home

MPAA: not rated

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
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