Viggo Mortensen plays Halder, an author and intellectual who is drawn into the Nazi party after his views on euthanasia are appropriated by the fascists.
Mortensen here once again proves his status as one of the greatest character actors in the world today. He effortlessly portrays this quietly conflicted man trying to cope with difficult times. The character is the ultimate example of the complicity people struggle to understand in Nazi Germany. Initially a principled university professor, he is led deeper and deeper into the party thanks to a lethal mixture of convenience, fear and underestimation of the Nazi horror.
A Jewish colleague begs him for help which he declines to provied, and one compromise at a time the resistance is squeezed out of him. As a look at the motivations and circumstances that lead a well-intentioned person to be an active participant in one of the most brutal regimes in history, Good is fascinating. The character does, perhaps, too often make the wrong decisions to be fully given the benefit of the doubt, and to be relateable, but altogether the script does a very good job.
The supporting actors and production values do make this feel somewhat like a TV movie, but a very well made TV movie with its heart in the right place. It thankfully avoids having the characters speak in German accents, and is calm in tone and pace.
It may have been interesting to hear more about Halder’s work on euthanasia, as this is an interesting debate today, and the use of well meaning intellectuals for Nazi aims is well documented. But this aspect of the film is left disappointingly undeveloped.
It’s hinted that Halder has some involvement in Nazi killing of the mentally ill, and at one point the health of his elderly mother looks set to reignite this debate, but it’s sidestepped in favour of examining Halder’s ongoing relationship with the Nazis.
This is a very neat, well made little film, with a strong performance from Mortensen making it work. It aims to shed light on the eternal question of how so many decent people went along with the Nazis, something it does with a reasonable degree of success.