A Most Wanted Man

A Most Wanted Man ★★★★

If you saw Tomas Alfredson's adaptation of John le Carre's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and enjoyed it, you will likely appreciate A Most Wanted Man. It is directed by Anton Corbijn, a man who seems perfectly suited to tackle a le Carre novel after seeing his calm approach in The American. This is a patient filmmaker, one who understands that the nuances and organic nature of the material must be accentuated with ease. This is not rushed and actually is less crammed with detail than Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, though that story was a bit better.

Corbijn is aided by a superb cast, all of whom compliment his style. Leading the charge is Philip Seymour Hoffman, and it should be said that because he is so good here and because this was one of his final performances, those facts might overshadow how magnificent the picture is overall. Still, Hoffman is amazing, chain-smoking cigarettes, pounding booze, and unloading a terrific German accent. He owns this film with his uncanny subtleties and confidence in every frame he appears. Robin Wright is also excellent. The best scenes are those in which she and Hoffman are together. Her American character is extremely intriguing, especially when the events conclude. You could easily watch either of these two personalities in more movies.

Rachel McAdams' resume has been spotty over the past several years, but she is outstanding as human rights attorney who is in over her head. One wishes she would bench the romances more often and showcase the restraint we know she possesses and expresses in this role. The supporting team also houses Willem Dafoe as a banker, Daniel Bruhl as one of Hoffman's colleague, and Taste of Cherry's Homayoun Ershadi as Abdullah.

A Most Wanted Man is not a spy thriller that you can just relax and admire. This is a dense, complex plot that demands attention, not only to keep track of what's transpiring but to observe the passion with which it was made. It doesn't rely on twists but rather the politics of spy operations, examining the people involved, and knowing the motivation of the players. If you give yourself to the story, you become immersed in the mysteries, the fluidity, the grit of the universe, and the sharpness of the journey.

I found that what was also increasingly apparent is that each aspect of the script, from the awkward office meetings to the surveillance and tailing of suspects, it's all portrayed in a believable fashion, as if it all might have occurred that way in real life. The ending is not exactly surprising, but Corbijn and screenwriter Andrew Bovell do capture the essence of le Carre's writing. This is a cold film where the cast and director underplay the proceedings, but that fits wonderfully. I was fully engrossed by this and hope that if any more le Carre stories are translated to the big screen in the future, Tomas Alfredson or Anton Corbijn are hired for the job because there is a palpable bond between source and cinematic vision.