A Most Wanted Man – Review by Frances Winston – In cinemas September 12th –
Directed by: Anton Corbijn
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, Daniel Brühl, Nina Hoss, Robin Wright, Grigoriy Dobrygin
Good, bad or indifferent this movie was always going to attract attention due to the fact that it was the last leading role Phillip Seymour Hoffman played before his untimely death in February this year. Based on the John le Carré espionage thriller novel of the same name this also features some impressive co-stars for Hoffman so it is safe to say my hopes were high for this.
Set in Hamburg Hoffman plays Günther Bachmann the leader of an anti-terrorist agency that monitors the Muslim community. They become aware of Issa Karpov (Dobrygin), who has entered the city illegally from Chechnya. He has engaged the services of an immigration lawyer Annabel Richter (McAdams) who helps him contact a banker named Tommy Brue (Dafoe) whose father laundered money for Issa’s gangster father. Although he wants nothing to do with his fathers fortune he finds himself persuaded to donate the funds to a well known Muslim philanthropist Dr Abdullah by Brue and Richter who have been recruited by Bachman. They hope that when he accepts the money they can prove that Abdullah is siphoning funds off donations in order to finance terrorism. Karpov aggress to help out but with German security officials and the American government also involved and with their own agendas no one really knows who they can trust.
This is tense from the off. The editing is snappy and cleverly designed to keep you guessing as to who is doing what and the overall tone is dark and reminiscent of a million cold war thrillers despite the fact that it is a contemporary drama. The plot is quite complex and it is not the kind of film you can zone out of. If you can’t pay full attention to this you will find yourself totally lost. In trying to create tension the pacing suffers and it does drag in parts but strong performances from the leads help counter this. Unfortunately there is an issue with accents as many of the American actors struggle with the German phonemes and slip in traces of their natural voice – particularly McAdams. While this is somewhat distracting it is something you can overlook on the whole.
This is gritty, dark and intense and as a final performance from Hoffman it stands up as a memorable one. It is the kind of film that demands your full focus and keeps you guessing almost till the very end. There will be people who will label this a classic and a masterpiece due to the Hoffman connection but I wouldn’t go that far. I would say however that if you are in the humour for a hardcore old school thriller then you should look no further. Definitely worth the price of admission it pulls very few punches and leaves you feeling like you have been kicked in the gut.