Entertainment Weekly - 01/16/2009
"Viggo Mortensen, in the tiny but worthy GOOD, does what may be his most fascinating acting." -- Grade: B
Cecil Philip Taylor's GOOD was first brought to the stage in 1981, and has been revived on numerous occasions. This version of Taylor's play stars Viggo Mortensen as John Halder, a German literary professor who struggles with his conscience as he becomes involved in the Third Reich during World War II. The film begins in the prewar era and establishes Halder's various relationships: his marriage is failing, there's a new woman in his life, and his Jewish friend, Maurice (Jason Isaacs), frets about his future well-being. The Nazi party picks up on a novel Halder has written which encourages compassionate euthanasia, and he is ushered into their fold. A mixture of naivetÚ and cowardice prevents Halder from facing the life-threatening situation Maurice finds himself in, and director Vicente Amorim ups the tension considerably in the final third of the movie as the professor acts to save his friend.
The most powerful scenes in GOOD are acted out between Mortensen and Isaacs. The two actors expertly detail the deterioration in the relationship between the two men, with Mortensen looking perfectly uneasy in his Nazi uniform and Isaacs building up a righteous fury at his old friend's blasÚ betrayal. Amorim adeptly deals with the euthanasia subplot by drawing a fine performance from Gemma Jones as Halder's dying mother, particularly in a moving scene where she tries to commit suicide. Amorim manipulates sound throughout the film, causing Halder to witness characters suddenly bursting into song in a manner reminiscent of Dennis Potter's THE SINGING DETECTIVE. With Mortensen once again proving what a brilliantly subtle actor he can be, GOOD is an affecting portrayal of a man whose weak will has superseded his best intentions and led him down an unspeakably dark path.
Nazi Germany |
Theatrical Release |
World War II |