Nick Vass’s review published on Letterboxd:
I was gripped by Corbijn's admirably bloodless approach. He's never reliant on genre-based thrills, constantly stuck in an unsparing character study, and delivered with Hoffman's singular talents. As a disheveled, chain-smoking German operative, he brings a poignant sense of fragility and despair from a failed mission in the past. Mostly the manner in which he maneuvers, investigates and spies is dependent on the film's first hour; a drama which had me engaged by flawlessly controlled pacing.
Conference room battles also hang on the fringes of a film who's appropriately withdrawn characters argue against the bureaucracy of government anti-terrorist organizations. It's not only a refreshing approach to modern cinema alone, but intensely gripping, despite the lack of no major action set-pieces or spies firing weaponry.
Even when the focal point crosses to altruistic McAdams, for a film this seemingly distancing, I was astounded by the sheer humanity and emotional crescendos she shared with Chechen immigrant Dobrygin. Whether it's her adamant human rights agenda, his head-tilted, saddened fixed expression (really, the center-piece tone for A Most Wanted Man's melancholy inflections) or seeing her strive for a certain citizenship, there was a connection which came from within me.
Gripping close-ups, emotive scoring and Corbijn's precisely crafted mise en scène seemed to truly impress me both technically, illuminatingly and metaphorically as well. Appropriately dour grey-green interiors with Hamburg's lit exteriors looked gorgeous on Palace's screen. Even the steely blue's of city shipyards and financial districts frequently remind you that Mohammed Atta and his fellow conspirators lived here while they plotted 9/11. All entangled in the moral, political murkiness that keeps me in complete engagement.
Of course, there's a narrative structure here which is exempt of le Carré's usual serpentine threads. I have no sizable complaints, for this is redeemed by Corbijn and Bovell's aforementioned, slow-build assuredness. No fuss. Also, a most rare occasion. Despite looking at the overall consistency of a film, it took the final fifteen minutes to increase my rating. Can't recall the last time this happened, but due to immense build-up of signatory suspense, and leading to further meddling, the pent-up dramatics of Hoffman's performance blurting canonically, and then a silent denouement which follows left me suffocated, astounded and almost impossible to stand properly as this near-masterwork conclude.
It's a phenomenally executed climax which lingered with me all day and continues to do so right now. As does most, if not all, of this spot-on work. Still no The American, though.