Synopsis: When a half-Chechen, half-Russian, brutally tortured immigrant turns up in Hamburg’s Islamic community, laying claim to his father’s ill-gotten fortune, both German and US security agencies take a close interest: as the clock ticks down and the stakes rise, the race is on to establish this most wanted man’s true identity – oppressed victim or destruction-bent extremist?
Release Date: July 25, 2014 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director Anton Corbijn cut his teeth and paid his dues making music videos for the likes of Depeche Mode, U2, and Metallica before branching out into mainstream film in 2010 with the George Clooney vehicle The American. Corbijn sticks with the spy thriller genre with his newest film, A Most Wanted Man.
A Most Wanted Man begins with a Chechen refugee named Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin from How I Ended This Summer) turning up in the German city of Hamburg showing signs of being brutally tortured and abused. Issa gains the attention of Gunter Bachmann (Capote‘s Philip Seymour Hoffman), the leader of a German anti-terrorism team who believes that Issa can help them track another suspect named Dr. Faisel Abdullah (Homayoun Ershadi from Zero Dark Thirty). Issa also lands on the radar of an American CIA agent named Martha Sullivan (“House of Cards” Robin Wright) who also wants to interrogate him, but gives Gunter 72 hours to find him first. Before either of them can locate Issa, he contacts a civil rights attorney named Annabel Richter (Midnight In Paris‘ Rachel McAdams) who he hopes can help him claim a large sum of money that is waiting for him at a bank run by Tommy Brue (Willem Dafoe from The Grand Budapest Hotel). Believing Issa can help him flush Abdullah out, Gunter lays out a plan involving Issa, Annabel, and Brue, but a lot can go wrong in the world of espionage, where no one can be trusted.
In the modern spy movie canon, A Most Wanted Man fits in nicely. Unfortunately, most modern spy movies are slow moving, weighed down, and overly wordy. Adapted from the novel by John le Carre (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) by screenwriter Andrew Bovell (Edge of Darkness), the script is very cerebral and dry, with tons of expository dialogue to walk the viewer through the story. In fact, some characters seem to exist for the sole purpose of having plots and schemes explained to them for the sake of the viewer (Robin Wright’s Martha, for example). The story does have a couple of cool twists, and there’s plenty of intrigue and mystery, but every once in a while the audience just pines for a little action. Aside from a handful of scenes, including a pulse-pounding car chase that, admittedly, is indicative of Anton Corbijn at his best, there is no action, just words. Lots of words.
There is an audience for A Most Wanted Man to be found somewhere, most likely with fans of John le Carre’s novels. Those who would rather watch the exploits of James Bond will find it lacking; it’s all cloak and no dagger.
Most of the cast in A Most Wanted Man is competent at their worst, very good at their best. Willem Dafoe and Robin Wright do well with their limited roles, and Grigoriy Dobrygin gives a breakout performance as Issa. The core ensemble is, for the most part, well cast. But, there is a flaw in the picture; Rachel McAdams is completely unconvincing. She seems to be in over her head for most of the film, just reciting lines rather than acting. With a name like Annabel Richter, it’s assumed that her character should be German, but her accent switches from British to Scottish to Italian – basically anything except German – and, frankly, it gets annoying fast. Her part is huge, and she misses the mark completely with it.
Now, the elephant in the room. Although audiences will be treated to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final performances in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, A Most Wanted Man represents his last lead role, and he knocks it out of the park. Hoffman is a master of the little things that make performances believable. In one scene, Gunter gets out of a helicopter and, almost as an afterthought, Hoffman tucks in the back of his shirt as he walks away. In another scene, Gunter is smoking a cigarette as he talks with another character, and Hoffman effortlessly exhales smoke mixed in with his spoken words in the middle of the dialogue. Touches like that might be forgotten by a lesser actor, but not Hoffman. Any actor can act, but Philip Seymour Hoffman nails all of the little mannerisms and quirks that make his performance in A Most Wanted Man a reason in itself to see the movie.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Anton Corbijn
- Screenwriter(s): Andrew Bovell
- Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman (Gunther Bachmann)Grigorly Dobrygin (Issa Karpov)Nina Hoss (Irna Frey) Homayoun Ershadi (Abdullah)
- Editor(s): Claire Simpson
- Cinematographer: Benoit Delhomme
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Herbert Gronemeyer
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA