A Most Wanted Man
Score: 9 out of 10
Philip Seymour Hoffman gives one of his final performances in A Most Wanted Man, a new spy thriller based on a novel by bestselling espionage author John le Carré. The film takes place in Hamburg, and focuses on a German intelligence agent (Hoffman) tasked with infiltrating radical Islamic cells in order to sniff out anyone who might be a terrorist. As he describes himself in the film, he’s a fisherman, using the minnows as bait in order to catch the bigger sharks lurking nearby. Things get complicated when he tracks down an alleged Chechen terrorist wanted by the Russians, and to make matters worse, the Americans stick their fingers in his plan to bring him down.
The plot, like most spy thrillers, is thick and requires your undivided attention, but it’s not as complicated or confusing as other le Carré outings like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. The story doesn’t have any gun battles, explosions, or car chases, but like all smart films, it still manages to keep you interested the whole time. It also touches on several topics that are shockingly current, most notably the domineering relationship that the American intelligence community has with its German counterparts. There was one line in particular between Hoffman and a CIA agent played by Robin Wright that could have been ripped from the headlines I was reading right before the screening.
The best aspect of A Most Wanted Man is the acting, and I’m not just saying that out of respect for Hoffman. He gives a performance that’s every bit as nuanced as Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but also makes the character feel vulnerable and unpredictable. All the politics and spying aside, he’s just a man who wants to make the world a safer place. You’re never quite sure if he’s going to hug someone or smack them in order to make it happen, and he ends up being an interesting cross between a German teddy bear and Burgermeister Meisterburger. All of the supporting players are great. There’s a lot of German actors (all speaking English for some reason) who you may recognize like Inglourious Basterds’ Daniel Brühl and Barbara’s Nina Hoss. Willem Dafoe and Rachel McAdams also do a great job, but the best supporting actor is Robin Wright, almost unrecognizable with short black hair.
A Most Wanted Man is a powerful film. A well-woven story that also makes you think about real world issues is a rare thing, and there’s a devastating finale that will stay with you long after you’ve left the theatre. I’d love for there to be a sequel with Hoffman’s character because I’m anxious to find out what’s next, but obviously that’s never going to happen.
-Review written by Blake Siefken, follow me on Twitter!