Philip Seymour Hoffman Leads an All-Star Cast in Anton Corbijn’s Excellent Espionage-Thriller “A Most Wanted Man”
The complicated world of conspiracy and espionage from the pen of John le Carre (responsible for 2011’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) is back in the form of acclaimed director Anton Corbijn’s A Most Wanted Man…
Anton Corbijn’s dour adaptation of John le Carré’s typically chilly post-9/11 thriller finds Chechen immigrant Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin) at large in Hamburg, where he becomes a pawn in a power struggle between bankers, lawyers, and counter-terrorists. Philip Seymour Hoffman (in one of his final performances) is Günther Bachmann, a bedraggled German intelligence operative who wants to use the suspected jihadist as bait to catch bigger fish; Robin Wright is the trigger-happy CIA agent who agrees to bide her time, and Rachel McAdams is the human rights lawyer caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Meanwhile Willem Dafoe puts his reptilian features to fine use as banker Thomas Brue, in whose hands the financial fate of the troubled and tortured Issa lies.
A Most Wanted Man ultimately hangs on Hoffman’s central performance, which is very bedraggled, distrusting, downbeat, world-weary and depressed by the milieu in which he finds himself. The whole story does have a very paranoid, cynical, post-9/11 portrait of a world where everyone seems to be double-crossing everybody at every turn and nobody trusts each other. In the case of the previous le Carré adaptation, Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, that was a film where it wasn’t really about spying or espionage, but about the distrust among fellow men. In the case of this, it is about a world of paranoia and suspicion and characters trying to uncover each other’s motives and desires as much as the motives of the people they are trying to track down.
Shedding the clean lines of The American, Corbijn’s third feature echoes the murkier smoke-stained tones of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, albeit with a photographer’s eye for striking, angular architectural detail. While the supporting performances are strong (with special plaudits to Nina Hoss as the only person who proves a match for Bachmann), this is very much Hoffman’s movie with his traipse through a moral no-man’s land providing the film’s signature downbeat tone. It’s really hard to imagine anyone else who could carry the role as well as Hoffman does and look like someone who is actually bearing the weight of the world on his shoulders. Of course, the film has a strong poignancy attached to it as a result of Hoffman’s tragic passing early this year. One American newspaper described him as arguably the most fated actor of his generation, and this is a film that is built around his performance.
The film is not without its faults: some of the English-language dialogue proves a distracting contrivance (surely Germans would speak German to each other – unless they know we’re watching?) and is in danger of being a huge contrast against the authentic edge that Corbijn is trying to create, and I’m unsure if it’ll prove as timeless and enduring as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. But in the end, the air of paranoid mistrust rings true, evoked most eloquently by Hoffman’s world-weary face, which speaks a universal language.
Written by Ryan Pollard
Directed by: Anton Corbijn
Written by: Andrew Bovell
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, Daniel Brühl, Nina Hoss, Robin Wright, Grigoriy Dobrygin
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A Most Wanted Man is released in the UK on DVD & Blu-ray January 19th 2015 You can purchase the DVD/Blu-ray from Amazon.co.uk HERE