A Most Wanted Man

most wanted173 204x300 - A Most Wanted ManThere is really just one reason to go see A Most Wanted Man — Philip Seymour Hoffman. The film, while good on its own terms, mainly serves as a reminder of what an immense talent we lost. Hoffman plays a German spy in this John le Carré adaptation from director Anton Corbijn who brought us the equally thoughtful The American. And like his previous film, this one depends on the audience getting inside the protagonist’s skin. I’m not sure it would have worked without Hoffman.

The story begins as Chechen Muslim Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin) sneaks into Hamburg. We know from the opening credits that the 9/11 attacks were masterminded and plotted there and that the intelligence organizations are all on the alert for anything else that might signal more trouble. Hoffman plays Günther Bachmann, a career spy with some shadowy German agency who has been working to prove that a certain respected Muslim philanthropist is siphoning money to jihadis. The arrival of the young Chechen gets the attention all intelligence people, both Germans and Americans. Everyone wants a piece of this guy, though as far as we can see he is just a young man who is running from the Russian authorities, and not a jihadist. most wanted man review photo lead 300x200 - A Most Wanted ManEnter human rights lawyer Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams) who wants to help him, which includes getting him papers as well as a huge stash of money his father hid a while back in Tommy Brue’s (Willem Dafoe) bank. Gunter sees this young man as an opportunity to land his bigger fish, but the rest of the intelligence community sees it differently. And it becomes a race to see who can find this most wanted man and use him for their purposes.

I must say there were times I was confused about what was happening, and I’m still not sure who some of the people were representing. Robin Wright shows up as an American intelligence officer of some sort, and I don’t really know what she wanted, though I think she got her way. In addition, the accents of several of the characters including Gunter were somewhat strange to the point of not knowing if they were Germans or not. A lot of the story is told visually, and it is well shot, but it is slow and you need to pay attention. Though the rest of the cast is good, it is Hoffman’s performance as the world weary, cynical but professional spy that keeps you in the seat. I would recommend it for that alone, with the caveat that people expecting twists and turns and action will be disappointed. I don’t think Mainstream Chick would be entertained. (Read her review of The American and a lot of it would apply to this one, too.)

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