In contrast to his recent skirmishes with avant garde filmmaking (FULL FRONTAL, BUBBLE), Steven Soderbergh goes boldly devant here, with results that are equally desultory. The idea was to shoot a Berlin-based/post-WWII murder mystery in period style (think A FOREIGN AFFAIR or THE THIRD MAN), but Soderbergh gets the look all wrong (deliberately?) with a contrasty, over-exposed glare that’s half GERMANY YEAR ZERO & half MILDRED PIERCE. In any event, the Berlin setting is only a cover for yet one more trip to Raymond Chandler-Land, with George Clooney going all Phillip Marlowe on us. (He gets beaten to a pulp for each clue just like Dick Powell.) Meanwhile Clooney & the whole cast struggle to find a consistent acting style (larger-than-life, yet realistic) that matches Soderbergh’s aims. (Only Beau Bridges handles the vibe naturally.) Then, right at the end, Soderbergh has the chutzpah to try to recreate the final scene from CASABLANCA! Clooney & the great Cate Blanchett have never looked so dim-witted & foolish. Warner Bros. must have wanted OCEANS 13 awful, awful, awful bad to ‘green light’ this one.*
*On the other hand, the numbskulls who put out the DVD slap on the ‘altered format’ warning for mastering the frame in the old Academy Ratio of 1:33-to-1 which Soderbergh fought to use.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Obviously, THE THIRD MAN/'49, but adventurous types should also have a look at Lars von Trier's EUROPA/'91.