Good intentions are in full force in this modern homage to classic film noir and the films of Michael Curtiz. But the great performances, flawless direction, and themes presented aren;t enough in a film that's brought down by its screenplay. Mildly entertaining (you can only take so much of Clooney being knocked down) that doesn't fully succeed.
Politics are nothing more than the actions and desires of a few affecting millions. Overall, the plot is the weakest element (well, second weakest if you count Maguire's performance). It is a too confusing and convoluted development for simple answers. Technically, it is perfectly shot, and captures the mood of film noir very well. Blanchett's performance was great. She was born to be photographed in black and white!
This is more than just a showcase for Soderbergh's obvious technical abilities; with the idea of juxtaposing an archaic form of filmmaking with the contemporary dramatic elements intended to exaggerate the brutality and emotional frailty of the central characters, in a way similar to what Scorsese did in New York, New York. A bit of a failed experiment perhaps, but I still found it interesting.
The first twenty five minutes (prior to the first character death) are uncomfortably edited - trapped between a longing to be a noir classic and a silent classic. Tobey's performance was less than pleasant and I have to admit that it broke into a better flow once he was out of the picture. But like many others say - although it had certain charm at times, this is a Soderbergh experiment that could have gone better.