A Most Wanted Man (Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions)
Rated R for language.
Starring Philip Seymour, Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, Robin Wright, Grigoriy Dobrygin, Derya Alabora, Daniel Brühl, Nina Hoss, Herbert Grönemeyer, Martin Wuttke, Kostja Ullmann, Homayoun Ershadi, Mehdi Dehbi, Vicky Krieps, Rainer Bock, Charlotte Schwab.
Written by Andrew Bovell, based on the novel by John le Carré.
Directed by Anton Corbijn.
I’ve been acquainted with a few “real” spies in my life. I could tell you who they are and what they do, but of course…I’d have to kill you. They never described a job like the “James Bond” stuff we see in movies, but told stories of research, monitoring and a whole lot of waiting. A Most Wanted Man, a film based on the John le Carré novel is one of those spy thrillers without all the gunplay, explosions and gadgets. It’s a movie that relies on tension, drama and procedure.
Philip Seymour Hoffman, in his final leading role plays Günther Bachmann, the head of a small, roguish team of spies that work outside the mainstream “homeland security” arm of the country’s intelligence branch. Bachmann is on the trail of a Chechen Muslim named Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin), who has entered Germany illegally. Issa has already been subjected to prison and torture in his native country and Turkey. Suspecting Karpov is up to no good, Bachmann tracks him to a local immigration attorney named Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams) and a banker named Tommy Brue (Willem Dafoe). It turns out Karpov is heir to a fortune left to him by his father, an evil Russian general. Bachmann’s real prey is a wealthy Mulsim humanitarian who is really funneling money to al Quaeda. He hopes to use Karpov, Brue and Annabel to get to the Muslim operative. In the background, an American CIA leader named Martha Sullivan (Robin Wright) also advises Bachmann and his bosses.
A Most Wanted Man is not a “thrilling” spy thriller, much like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy (2011) was, another le Carré film adaptation. It’s more of a procedural drama, with a lot of reflection on the morality of terrorist hunting thrown in. Hoffman delivers a great performance in final leading role (he will also appear in the final Hunger Games films), and exhibits a sympathetic view of one who has already lost so much - and stands to lose even more.
Many will not appreciate the dramatic and moral nuances of A Most Wanted Man, but they might enjoy the all-star cast, which gives the film a little more gravitas than your garden-variety gadget/explosion-fest. It was also nice to see Rachel McAdams venture from romantic comedies to tackle a film with darker themes.
The movie’s ending might also be a disappointment, which demonstrates a certain malaise over the seemingly endless war on terror. A Most Wanted Man may not be very thrilling, but it might make you think about such things.