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Review: A Most Wanted Man

Between The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, The Constant Gardner, and most recently, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, it’s obvious that John le Carré’s novels serve as great source material for the silver screen. Anton Corbijn’s A Most Wanted Man is no exception adding to the list of great le Carré adaptations. Taut, multi-layered, and just a tiny bit puzzling, A Most Wanted Man is not a film for everyone.

Our backdrop is modern-day Hamburg, Germany, where a group of terrorists planned the 9/11 attacks. Since 2001, central intelligence has been on high alert for any possible terrorist activity within the Islamic community. Philip Seymour Hoffman appears in his last starring role as Günther Bachmann, a spy operating a secret anti-terrorism team. Bachmann is not the typical spy we see in the James Bond films or this year’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. In le Carré’s world, being a spy is as unglamourous as any desk job. When Issa (Grigoriy Dobrygin), an illegal Chechen/Russian immigrant shows up in Hamburg, suddenly catches Bachmann’s attention. Bachmann follows Issa, connecting with each person he sees Issa connecting with, including a lawyer played by Rachel McAdams and a banker played by Willem Dafoe. This description barely does the multifaceted plot justice, but it would be nearly impossible for someone to adequately describe what this film is about in approximately one hundred words.

A Most Wanted Man completely belongs to Philip Seymour Hoffman. The rest of the cast members could’ve easily been replaced, but Hoffman is completely indispensable. He appears to move effortlessly throughout the film, whilst still building a complex and completely believable character. His chain-smoking, heavy-drinking Günther Bachmann joins Tinker Tailor’s George Smiley as one of the most interesting spies every captured on film. Hoffman’s German accent sounds great, unlike his other American cast members who can’t seem to hold down their accents. Rachel McAdams’ Annabel Richter is supposed to be German; I don’t know if McAdams has ever heard someone from Germany speak, but they certainly wouldn’t sound anything like she does in the film.

The film is slow at times, but Hoffman helps to keep things moving. As far as espionage films go, A Most Wanted Man is a slow burn, and definitely more intricate than many others of its genre. While it’s a very strong film, A Most Wanted Man just doesn’t pack the same punch as many le Carré adaptations that proceeded it. The average moviegoer may get lost or bored if they aren’t offering their complete attention throughout the films’ two-hour running time; but if you are willing to fully dedicate yourself to the film, you will be rewarded with a great spy-thriller and some sinister backstabbing.

[star v=35]

Matt Hoffman

Matthew Hoffman is a Toronto-based cinephile who especially enjoys French films and actresses over the age of 50; including but not limited to: Isabelle Huppert, Meryl Streep, and Jacki Weaver.