A Most Wanted Man (15) review
It was hard to watch A Most Wanted Man without being filled with constant regret.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s an excellent film. But to think it’ll be one of the last times we’ll see fresh material from the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman is a damn shame.
Hoffman is at the centre of pretty much every great moment in Anton Corbijn’s game of espionage-style cat and mouse, which is the latest John le Carré adaptation to hit the big screen.
Like Tinker Tailor Solider Spy and the Constant Gardener before it, A Most Wanted Man is a slow burner. A thinking man’s film, if you will.
The plot kicks off when stowaway Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin), who is half-Chechen, half-Russian, lands on German soil. He’s a homeless immigrant, but is regarded as an escaped militant jihadist by Interpol.
After being spotted on surveillance footage, his presence in Hamburg sounds off many an alarm across the world. But while most – including the Americans and local authorities – want to snatch him off the street, German spy Günther Bachmann (Hoffman) and his small team have other ideas and look at the bigger picture.
They see Issa as the man who can inadvertently get them to the bigger players in the terrorism game and set about gathering intelligence on him by any means necessary.
Meanwhile, human rights lawyer Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams) is doing her best to usher Issa to safety.
She enlists the help of bank owner Thomas (Willem Dafoe), who has Issa’s inheritance stashed away in his vault. It’s not long before Bachmann has them both dancing to his tune, though, as Issa becomes a pawn in the international war on terror.
The wildcard here is CIA agent Martha Sullivan (Robin Wright). Her scenes with Bachmann are both tense and intriguing in equal measure – and you’re never quite sure where her loyalty lies.
The only downside I can offer to A Most Wanted Man is that lot of things are left unanswered. I was never totally sure why Issa was considered so dangerous in the first place, nor do we find out an awful lot about his back story.
The same goes for Bachmann, who clearly has trust issues after an incident that went down in Beirut. We’re never really told much about that, but I found myself wanting to know more.
But that’s nit-picking, really. Hoffman alone makes this film worth watching.
His power-house performance is both haunting and believable. So often thrillers that are based on terrorism and espionage venture into the unbelievable.
Not this one. Hoffman – and indeed McAdams and Dafoe – help make A Most Wanted Man feel very real (if you can forgive them for slightly dodgy German accents).
The ending wasn’t as satisfying as most Hollywood blockbusters usually aim to be, but that was in keeping with the dour, mundane nature of the film. The average person will never know what is going on in the spy game – and that’s how I felt when I walked out of the cinema.
Rating: 4/5 (Watched at West End Cinema, Boston)