The Good German: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
An homage to the Golden Age of film noir thrillers, The Good German is a glistening reflection on a bygone era of film. The absolutely brilliant score by Thomas Newman is likewise cut from the cloth of such Golden Age masters as Max Steiner, Miklós Rózsa and his own father, the legendary Alfred Newman. The Good German is one of the best scores of the year and a strong Oscar contender.
Just as director Steven Soderbergh paid tribute to the atmospheric black and white thrillers of the postwar period with this movie, composer Thomas Newman came up with a score that strives to evoke the majesty of works by the likes of Miklós Rózsa, Max Steiner and, of course, his own father, Alfred Newman. For once the enormous ensemble credited as the Hollywood Studio Symphony does not feel wasted: most of the brooding ambiance is created by thick, dark clouds of strings, and tension often rises from the strings' juxtaposition with brass. Newman also makes good use of oft-neglected instrumental voices: Check out the harp on “Muller’s Billet,” “Trip Ticket” and “Golem,” for instance; it really makes you wonder why that instrument isn’t used more. In terms of mood-setting, the music is perfect: listening to cues such as “Kurfustendamm” will instantly transport you back to a rainy street in 1945—or rather, a Hollywood backlot made to look like a rainy street in 1945. Sure, this is a deliberately retro soundtrack, but it’s done with elegance and deep understanding of a certain classic scoring style. —Elisabeth Vincentelli
Based on the novel by Joseph Kanon, The Good German takes place in the ruins of post-WWII Berlin, where U.S. Army war correspondent Jake Geismar (George Clooney) becomes embroiled with Lena Brandt (Cate Blanchett), a former lover whose missing husband is the object of a manhunt by both the American and Russian armies. Intrigue mounts as Jake tries to uncover the secrets Lena may be hiding in her desperation to get herself and her husband out of Berlin. Tully (Tobey Maguire), a soldier in the American army motor pool assigned to drive Jake around Berlin, has black market connections that may be Lena's way out—or lead them all into even darker territory.