Viggo Mortensen is a chief exponent of the Block-of-Wood School of Acting, but he is perfectly cast as Professor "Johnnie" Halder, a Professor of Literature and novelist in Hitler's Germany.
As GOOD opens, Johnnie is just like anybody else. He is dealing with a neurotic wife and demanding children, balancing home and work, and is dedicating time to caring for his increasingly frail and senile mother. Hitler has just come to power. He begins an affair with his student, Anne Hartman, more as a distraction than anything else, and maintains his friendship with Maurice Gluckstein, his former psychoanalyst. He decries Nazi book-burnings and dismisses the Fuhrer as a "joke."
In an attempt to establish its credibility, the new government is seeking out experts to endorse its policies, and they trip across Johnnie's sensitively written 1920s novel of a husband who aids his terminally ill wife in an assisted suicide.
Although Johnnie despises Naziism he is flattered by the attention paid to his novel, and accepts (with misgivings) an honorary commission in the SS. This opens the door to promotions at the University. He becomes Dean of Literature after the former Dean, Herr Mandelbaum "leaves in such a hurry." He is tapped to inspect facilities for the care of the mentally ill, based on his "humanitarian" writings.
Despite pressure, he continues to befriend Maurice, who is becoming more and more bleak as time passes. He does attempt to arrange for his friend to leave Germany, but he is stopped from purchasing a ticket to Paris. Finally, he loses track of his friend in 1938, right after Kristallnacht.
Throughout GOOD, Johnnie IS "good," but he becomes increasingly blind to what is happening around him as he travels down the slippery slope that eventually takes him to Auschwitz on an inspecton tour.
Never evil, Johnnie Halder is an Everyman who goes along, accepts what he told without question, and is increasingly co-opted by flattery and comfort. In the end, he comes to realize that he is stumbling through a waking nightmare of which he in part created. Not judgmental of its protagonist, GOOD invites us to question just what a "good" man is and does and where the bounds of responsibility lie.