Picks and Pans Review: The Good German

updated 12/18/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/18/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST

George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire

In 1945 Jake Geismer (Clooney), an American reporter, arrives in Berlin to cover the Potsdam Peace Conference, during which the U.S., Britain and Russia will divvy up post-WWII Europe. But his real reason for visiting is to track down Lena (Blanchett), a married German woman with whom he had an affair while in the city before the war. Jake finds her, and bad trouble follows.

Shot in black-and-white and imitating the visual and even acting styles of Casablanca and other '40s era movies, German is a cinematic curio. Director Steven Soderbergh (Ocean's Twelve) pays self-conscious homage to those earlier films but poses moral questions far more complex than his models ever raised. Does it work? Not entirely (the love story lacks heat), but it's a fascinating experiment. (R)

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