consistently innovative as Steven Soderbergh ("Traffic," "Erin Brockovich," "Solaris"). Allow the guy the occasional "Ocean's" franchise trifle; at least half the time, the director is exploring the more interesting recesses of cinema.


In "The Good German," Soderbergh sets out to disprove the notion that they don't make 'em like they used to. Set in post-Nazi Germany and shot in high-contrast black and white, the movie adheres to most of the technical and aesthetic aspects of Hollywood filmmaking circa the Forties.


If only the script by Paul Attanasio had matched Soderbergh's ambitions. A convoluted tale of international intrigue in the closing days of World War II, the film comes across more like dress-up than drama, with George Clooney, Cate Blanchett and a gratingly miscast Tobey Maguire forced to wrap their tonsils around some glaringly self-consciously hard-bitten dialogue.


That's the problem with experimentation: Sometimes you're bound to blow up the lab. "The Good German" captures the style of Hollywood's yesteryear, but not the soul. Ultimately, it just whets your appetite to go rent a DVD of "Casablanca" or "The Third Man."


 "?Phil Bacharach

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