One thing you’ll never really be able accuse George Clooney of is resting on his laurels. Sure, the guy is fantastically successful and keeps being voted Sexiest Man Alive and such but he seems, at least publicly, to approach it all with a sense of humor and the knowledge that it could all evaporate in a moment. That’s reflected in the career choices he’s been making. The movies he’s been making for the last five or six years seem to all be ones where he’s working with people he likes working with, not because of the perceived commercial vitality of the film. Whether it’s the Ocean’s series, his films with the Coen Brothers or the series of projects he’s worked on with director Steven Soderbergh (who also directed the Ocean’s movies) these are all movies that he’s chosen to work on for personal or artistic reasons, not because of a huge paycheck.
The Good German falls into the last category and is yet another re-teaming of Clooney and Soderbergh. This movie tells the story of an American military investigator (Clooney) in post-World War II Berlin who is ordered to investigate the death of an American serviceman, something both his superiors as well as the Russians, who control part of Berlin as well, want dealt with quickly and quietly. His investigation, though, leads him to reconnect with a former lover (Cate Blanchett) who is now involved with the lower ranking soldier (Toby Maguire) assigned to Clooney’s detail.
Oh, and it’s shot in black-and-white. I love Soderbergh.
The first thing I thought of when I saw the poster, a feeling later echoed by Jeff Wells and others, is that it immediately invokes the poster for Casablanca specifically but, more generally, the one-sheets for movies from that era. The poster shows black-and-white pictures of the main characters against a tan background. But check out that bright-red, eye-catching title treatment. The scrawl of the title is so cool. This poster just exudes sort of a vintage cool that makes it something I would definitely tack up on my wall if I had the chance. I think the fact that this sort of old-school movie would go with such an old-school one-sheet just, quite frankly, rocks.
There was another poster made that, while still very cool, is slightly less so than the first. This one narrows down the photo so that it just runs of the middle third of the real estate and features a sort of silhouette of bombed-out Berlin in the background. There’s also the addition of what seems to be a body floating in water toward the bottom. I normally might like this one more but I actually think the overt placement of the body tips too much of the movie and doesn’t do enough to build intrigue. Still a very solid effort but just half-a-step less effective than the first poster.
It’s hard for me not to drool over this trailer. This is obviously â€“ obviously â€“ designed to be a trailer that appeals to the sort of people who watch Turner Classic Movies, even when they may not know what movie is on. The entire trailer is setup in a way that says â€œthis is an homage from the filmmakers to the movies that influenced them.â€ Seriously, watch it again. I’m not just talking about the black-and-white footage, I’m talking about the whole thing.
So beyond being an evocation of movie’s from bygone years what does this trailer do well? The plot and setting is setup very nicely. There are good explanations of who’s doing what and where they’re doing it. Everyone seems to have multiple agendas and shifting loyalties, all centered around the realities of life in a newly divided, post-war Berlin. We learn what Clooney is doing and what sort of roadblocks are put in his way, some even from people he thought were his friends. The trailer does all of this while not giving away really any (from what I surmise) of the payoff. I’m guessing there’s very little if any footage in here that comes from the last half-hour of the movie. It seems to be made up almost solely of the setup of the plot and not from its conclusion. That means it’s actually effective at building anticipation in the minds of the viewer and doesn’t leave them feeling like they’ve already seen a condensed version of the movie.
While the official website for the movie is very nice to look at, it’s disappointingly content-lite. Not that surprising since this movie doesn’t exactly scream of a full interactive experience, but it feels like all the boxes on the To Do list were checked and not much other thought went into it.
When you first enter the full Flash-based (sigh) site the â€œAbout the Filmâ€ description comes right up. No wasting time with splashy intros or confusing menus, no sir. The movie gets right down to the task at hand. That description is pretty good and well-written and, just so you know, appears nowhere else on the site. I question that decision since it essentially gives the visitor no way to get back to it other than to re-load the site.
The meat of the site is pretty ordinary. “Cast and Crew” is exactly what you’d think it is. â€œPhotosâ€ contains about 15 stills, â€œDownloadsâ€ gives you both posters (which are also reformatted for wallpaper) and a few AIM icons you can use, â€œVideoâ€ is just the trailer (though in a variety of formats) and the â€œSoundtrackâ€ section is still labeled as Coming Soon.
The best part of the site is â€œBerlin 1945.â€ It provides a bit of background on how the city was divided among the American, British, French and Russian governments in the aftermath of the war.Â There’s a brief description of conditions in each area and what sorts of neighborhoods each contained along with a few old pictures from that era. It’s good that there’s some historical reference given here but it’s too small an effort to really make an impact. This is the kind of thing that either needs to be fleshed out to be more substantive or provide links to places where people can go to learn more.
There’s also a section labeled â€œMaking Ofâ€ that for some reason or another I could never get to bring up any information, even on multiple attempts. Kind of weird but probably just a glitch of some sort. Finally, the â€œSoundtrackâ€ section is still labeled as coming soon.
It’s a good, solid campaign that, unfortunately, falls apart on the web. There’s little there that contains the same sort of feel or vibe that the poster and trailer do. Those two elements create such anticipation and are so strong in their evocation of past movies that it’s really disappointing when the website doesn’t continue that. I usually expect more from Warner Bros., a studio that’s usually very good at creating cohesive campaigns. Still, it’s hard to overlook how effective that poster and that trailer are and they are the primary reasons why I like this campaign.