A character study of a Nazi quisling that’s frequently too muddled to reach even the level of banality, Good is incapable of raising the merest measure of anguish in its scenes of book burning and Kristallnacht. It’s literally and dramatically bloodless. Adapted from a 1981 play by C.P. Taylor, the film tracks the descent of literature professor John Halder (Viggo Mortensen), whose disgust at Hitler’s assumption of power (“a joke”) doesn’t propel him into opposition or flight, but an acquiescence from which he can assuage his midlife marital inertia through an affair with an attentive student (Jodie Whittaker)—an “Aryan goddess” who eventually becomes his second wife. A novel Halder has penned whose romantic plot is resolved by euthanasia wins the approval of the Fuhrer and Goebbels, and he slips inexorably down the “good German” path of taking an opportune SS commission, to the enraged disbelief of his increasingly endangered friend and Jewish psychiatrist Maurice (Jason Isaacs, by far the most vital figure on the screen). Mortensen muffles his familiar physical brio in playing a tentative, pinched man (and uses an Anglo accent to blend into the British cast), but none of Halder’s trials—his hesitancy to get Maurice out of the country, the weight of his mother’s terminal illness, the expectations of his young wife—add up psychologically to a Nazi enemy who suppresses his morality and joins the fold. Director Vicente Amorim annoyingly floods interiors with the glare of overexposure and shoots many of the talky patches in dull shot-countershot autopilot. But the problematic scenario, with its inscrutable musical reveries of laborers, bureaucrats, and death-camp inmates breaking into Mahler songs, is the key deficiency; despite the title, Halder never seems to possess or aspire to any standard of conscious virtue. Producing such a diffuse and vague project on the moral landscape of Nazi rank-and-file is not only maddening but trivializing. “It’s real,” Halder finally says upon arrival at Auschwitz, but the same can’t be plausibly said of the film’s antihero.
- 95 min
- Vicente Amorim
- John Wrathall
- Viggo Mortensen, Jason Isaacs, Jodie Whittaker, Steven Mackintosh, Mark Strong, Gemma Jones
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