A Most Wanted Man

A Most Wanted Man ★★★

Any viewing of any Philip Seymour Hoffman film now always comes tinged with sadness. Anton Corbijn's adaptation of John le Carré's A Most Wanted Man isn't quite his final screen performance (we still have two more Hunger Games films to go - hmm...) but if it was, it would be a decent farewell. The story deals with post-9/11 paranoia. After learning that the attack was planned in Hamburg, the authorities are determined not to make the same mistakes again. A young half-Russian, half-Chechen illegal immigrant arrives in the city seeking asylum. He is suspected of having terrorist connections. Hoffman's Gunther Bachmann intends to use him to bring down who he considers to be the real enemy.

I enjoyed this more than I did Tomas Alfredson's adaptation of Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy, in part because I really struggled to follow the plot of the former. A Most Wanted Man is complex, but not to the point where it becomes distracting. However, I didn't find it particularly engaging; the characters aren't very 3-dimensional and failed to fully draw me in. The performances are uniformly excellent, from the always wonderful Rachel McAdams as a plucky young lawyer, the always reliable Willem Dafoe as a banker torn between right and wrong, Nina Hoss is great as Bachmann's assistant, Grigoriy Dobrygin is fantastic as Issa Karpov, the immigrant who may or may not be incredible dangerous, and, of course, the always phenomenal Hoffman, delivering a suitably grizzled but driven performance and fully transforming into the role as he always does.

Another flaw lies in the contrivance of German characters speaking to each other in English with German accents. It's a curious case indeed; in Paths of Glory, one of my favourite films of all-time, the French characters speak to each in English with American accents. It doesn't bother me there, perhaps because they don't attempt accents, but in A Most Wanted Man, given the authenticity captured in the rest of the film, it does, at least initially, prove distracting.

It's solidly directed by Corbijn, well shot by Benoit Delhomme and has tight script by Andrew Bovell with an ending that stays with you, but when it's finished, you'll struggle to remember much of what you saw.

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