Good (2010)


Our Rating: 2 out of 5

Reviewer: Shannon H.

No doubt about it, the Nazis were an evil bunch -- they practically issued death certificates to people who were not deemed Aryan enough. However, not all Nazis were necessarily evil; take Oskar Schindler for example. He hid over 1,000 Jews from concentration camps in his factory. This film has the same idea; a “good” man employed in an organization known for their inhumane track record.
Literature professor John Halder (Viggo Mortensen) is living a hectic life in 1930s Germany. His lectures don’t draw a whole lot of students. He comes home to a neurotic wife, Helen (Anastasia Hille), two kids, and an elderly, semi-invalid mother which doesn’t give him a lot to look forward to at the end of the day. He is working on a book that speaks of euthanasia and the right to die for those who are chronically ill. One of his students, Anne (Jodie Whittaker) takes a liking to John and it isn’t long before the two have an affair. John ends up renting a studio so he could spend time with Anne while writing his book.
Eventually, John’s book is finished -- and so is his marriage to his wife. He is enjoying life without her and spending time with his Jewish friend Maurice Glückenstein (Jason Isaacs). Trouble starts again when the Nazis take notice of John’s book about euthanasia and offer him a position in the Nazi party. John is eager to accept, which later draws the ire of Maurice, who is furious with him for aligning himself with an anti-Jewish organization. John tries frantically to save his friend from being arrested by the SS; he also realizes that the Nazis enjoyed his book so much that they applied it to their practice of eliminating Jews, the developmentally disabled, and other undesirables from German society. Meanwhile, his mistress-turned-wife Anne is enjoying the good life that the Nazi Party has given them (a nice home, a stable job for John, etc) and is apathetic to Maurice’s plight (she mentions to John that Maurice can take care of himself). Now John faces a dilemma; should he leave Maurice alone or try to save his friend at the risk of losing everything he has gained?
This film is not without objectionable content. The majority of it comes from foul language with at least 15 uses of the f-word, 5 uses of s***, two abuses of deity, and other assorted, “colorful” dialogue. The sexual content is mild to moderate and all of it is implied. A man mentions to his friend a twisted sexual fantasy he has about one of his students. A woman is seen wearing a robe (nothing underneath) as she is taken in by a married man from a rain storm (her bra, underwear, and clothes are hung to dry). The same woman makes out with said man afterward. In the next scene, the man is tucking in his shirt and explaining to his wife about what happened. It is implied that a man divorces his wife and marries his mistress; one person calls the mistress a “whore.” A woman lies in bed covered by sheets and nothing else, presumably after sleeping with her lover (the lover in question has his shirt unbuttoned but stays clothed otherwise). The violence is not graphic and thankfully, there isn’t a whole lot of it. A group of SS officers beat and arrest German Jews and send them off to concentration camps (the scene looks more campy than horrific). At a concentration camp, it is implied that the guards sic German Shepherds on the prisoners; the guards also line up prisoners in formation and shoot random people. There are a couple of intense moments where an old woman kills herself by ingesting dangerous drugs and a Nazi officer is taken to a hospital where it is implied that the developmentally disabled “patients” are being experimented on and, possibly, killed. A man reveals to his friend that he and his wife cannot have children (it is recommended by the Nazi party that “Aryan” couples breed “Aryan” children).
Aside from abusing God’s name, there isn’t a great deal of spiritual content. The character of John Halder commits adultery and leaves his wife for his blonde “Aryan” student. After sleeping with her for the first time, John tries to break it off no avail. The good part is that John realizes that his book on the right to die is being misinterpreted by Nazis and he wants to do something about it. Unfortunately for him, if he spoke out, he would lose his position in the Nazi party -- and possibly his life. He is constantly torn between his job as an SS officer and his best friend who happens to be Jewish. Before he is sent to arrest and detain Jews en masse, Anne tells him not to worry about losing his life and that all he has to do was just maintain order. John responds that it is Maurice that he’s worried about, which leads to Anne asking him if it is worth losing his livelihood for his friend. It would be very easy for us, in our generation, to criticize John for not sticking up for Maurice. However, being employed as a Nazi meant that one had to pledge their lives to Adolf Hitler, being friends with a Jew meant being kicked out of the party as well as jail time and even death, which ties in with the title of the film. Is there such a thing as a “good” Nazi; an individual who works for the party but secretly despises it?
Unfortunately, Good (based on a play by C.P. Taylor) isn’t very good. The scenes would cut to another scene with little or no explanation as to how they are connected through the plot. The script and acting was sub par. Most of the actors were British and it was confusing for me to hear Maurice speak in a British accent while portraying a German Jew (at one point, I thought the character of Maurice was British). In agreement with a comment made on the Internet Movie Database website, I believe that the film should’ve been a foreign production and the actors should have been German (ditto for the script); it would’ve made a lot more sense. The scenes for Kristallnact (“Night of the Broken Glass”) are amateurish; likewise for Viggo Mortensen’s acting. Instead of portraying a reluctant SS officer, he ran around as if he were mouse running from a cat, which surprised me, considering his stellar performance in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. If the sexual content and language were eliminated, this would be a solid PG-13. All in all, the film raises good questions about ethics and morals but, unfortunately, it doesn’t deliver.