A Most Wanted Man

A Most Wanted Man ★★★½

There is nothing about Anton Corbijn’s A Most Wanted Man that is distinguishably innovative, entertaining or exceptional, yet it is a film whose solid components amount to an above-average thriller. In an era where brainless action is all-too-frequent, Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays with subtle sorrow Günther Bachmann, a German intelligence officer who is refreshingly realistic and powerfully human. Instead of the usual corporeal spy with clever deductions, here we face a true-to-life, overweight and troubled Government worker, a paperwork-filled man whose job consists of making the world a better place. Despite his obsession with work and his clear substratal position, his character is somewhat diminished, along with those of his co-stars, by the filmmakers. The plot, adapted from John Le Carré’s novel of the same title, is just too focused on its patriotic stereotypes (Muslims are either terrorists or terrorist collaborators, Russians are brutal torturers and rapists, in contrast to earnest Germans and Americans trying to save lives) to depict these charismatic protagonists, leaving them thus rather inchoate.

The great Nina Hoss, for example, the incredible Willem Dafoe and an impressive Grigoriy Dobrygin, as a half-Chechen, half-Russian immigrant seeking asylum in Hamburg, are greatly underused given their acting abilities and relevance to the story. In contrast, Rachel McAdams and her meager accent is overused, creating an unnecessarily clichéd romantic arch with the immigrant. That said, it is further stimulating to see so many women take the lead in an action feature, from McAdams herself to Hoss, to Robin Wright as a CIA officer. These female characters, regardless of their underdevelopment, are still proof of the evolution that is still taking place today in Hollywood as to women’s role in film.

As the picture slowly unfolds in a tightly paced and intensely edited manner, we are hooked by the thick plot that surrounds these characters, but instead of focusing on the puzzlement and intricacies of plot construction, Corbijn concentrates on the moral ambiguities at stake, creating a quite interesting and once again original approach. The line that separates villain from hero is blurred more often than not, which, as the final act occurs, creates a very entertaining finale. There is no doubt about what the filmmakers want to say about the American way – rushed, seeking quick results, and finally reckless – versus the European way – prudent with long-term success – in those sequences. A Most Wanted Man, therefore, translates its message into the cinematic world quite powerfully, but lacking the personal drama, the force of a complex protagonist, to make it work completely.

| Direction: 7,0                               | Sound: 6,0
| Screenplay: 6,0                           | Editing: 8,0
| Acting: 8,0                                     | Entertainment: 8,0
| Visuals: 7,0                                    | Overall Rating: 7,0