A Most Wanted Man

It’s all good. They’re Germans. You can trust ’em. Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams and Academy Award nominees Willem Dafoe and Robin Wright star in A Most Wanted Man.

A Most Wanted ManCast of Characters:
Gunther Bachmann – Philip Seymour Hoffman
Annabel Richter – Rachel McAdams
Tommy Brue – Willem Dafoe
Martha Sullivan – Robin Wright
Issa Karpov – Grigoriy Dobrygin
Dr. Faisal Abdullah – Homayoun Ershadi
Erna Frey – Nina Hoss
Max – Daniel Bruhl

Director – Anton Corbijn
Screenplay – Andrew Bovell
Based on the novel A Most Wanted Man by John le Carre
Producer – Stephen Cornwell, Gail Egan, Malte Grunert, Simon Cornwell & Andrea Calderwood
Rated R for language

Having escaped into Hamburg, Germany, illegally, Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin) – a half-Russian/half-Chechen refugee – finds himself wanted by German intelligence. Leading the investigation is Gunther Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman), whose espionage agency believes Karpov to be a dangerous terrorist allying with Dr. Faisal Abdullah (Homayoun Ershadi), a Muslim philanthropist who may or may not be secretly funneling funds to terrorist organizations.

Fearing for his safety, Karpov seeks help from immigration lawyer Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams), who puts him in touch with Tommy Brue (Willem Dafoe), a banker who knew Issa’s father and holds an inheritance for him. Having been given little time to finish the case, Bachmann seeks Richter and Brue’s help, seeing that inheritance as a possible key in bringing down Abdullah’s alleged terrorist ties.

Although he still has a supporting role in both parts of the final entry to the Hunger Games series, due out this fall and the next, A Most Wanted Man is the final lead performance we will ever get from the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman. Earlier this year, Hoffman starred in God’s Pocket, which was a disappointing, lackluster film. It’s, of course, unfortunate that we’ll never get to see Hoffman carry a film again, but A Most Wanted Man is a much more superior film to the aforementioned God’s Pocket, and a fitting sendoff for the Oscar winning actor.

This isn’t a Tom Clancy or Jason Bourne style spy thriller. Based on John le Carre’s (The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Call for the Dead, The Little Drummer Girl, The Constant Gardener and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) novel of the same name, A Most Wanted Man lacks the flash or explosiveness of those aforementioned thriller styles. Instead, director Anton Corbijn, who previously directed Control and The American, takes a more deliberate and patient pace to unfolding the story. Set in the wake of 9/11, Corbijn and writer Andrew Bovell give this film a realistic touch as we watch Hoffman’s character frustratingly deal with bureaucracy at work in handling national intelligence. Despite there not technically being central villain (a common device in many spy thrillers), conflicts and consequences still abound at nearly ever corner. Every character does what they feel is right and in their best interest. Consequences do follow, but Corbijn and Bovell assume the viewer is smart enough to decide on their own who is right or wrong.

The supporting work from Rachel McAdams, Grigoriy Dobrygin, Nina Hoss and veteran talents Willem Dafoe and Robin Wright is first-rate and natural, but there’s no denying that this is the Philip Seymour Hoffman show. Whether bringing an intensity or subdued restraint to his roles, he owned every second of each character he embodied, and he does so once again, yet unfortunately for one last time. Bachmann is a world-wearied agent who’s seen and done it all within his field, and knows how to play the game he’s in. He chain smokes, drinks and isn’t winning the Mr. Universe competition any time soon, but he’s clearly the smartest man in any room he enters. Hoffman’s superb and effectively low key here which makes the rare moment his character does let his emotions slip all the more compelling.

Although, plot-heavy, everything moves methodically here, and while not the edge of your seat thriller most moviegoers may prefer, Corbijn’s style and approach pays off in an engaging finale.

Skillfully directed by Anton Corbijn and featuring a talented cast, A Most Wanted Man is a fine alternative for those wanting a quieter approach to the spy thriller. The main and obvious reason to see this, though, is Philip Seymour Hoffman, who gives us one more example of how he didn’t just play characters, he became them. While this won’t go down as the pinnacle of his career, it’s still a bittersweet yet worthy sendoff for one of the most accomplished actors of the past two decades.

I give A Most Wanted Man a A- (★★★½).

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