A Most Wanted Man – Film Review

Philip Seymour Hoffman owns this John Le Carre terrorism thriller

Reminding us again of the great talent we lost earlier this year, Philip Seymour Hoffman delivers a brilliantly layered and subtle performance playing world-weary secret agent Gunter Bachmann. Tapping into post 9/11 terrorism fears A Most Wanted Man is based on John Le Carre’s spy novel published in 2008. Bachmann is at loggerheads with his CIA rivals after being sent back from Beirut and put out to grass in Hamburg.

The story follows Chechen Muslim Issa (Grigoriy Dobrygin) who illegally immigrates to Germany to claim an inheritance but finds himself caught in the crossfire of the war on terror. He meets Rachel McAdams’ idealistic human rights lawyer Annabel who believes his story and tries to help him seek asylum. While romance blossoms international government agencies are circling, desperate to foil the next terror plot and save face in the international community as Hamburg once played host to the 9/11 perpetrators. Caught in the web of spy versus spy, the young couple become intelligence assets used by the security agencies in a game of international brinkmanship where Bachmann attempts to pulls the strings.

Speaking to the Sunday Times about the impact of Hoffman’s performance, Le Carre said: “He did what only the greatest actors can do: he made his voice the only authentic one, the lonely one, the odd one out, the one you depended on amid all the others. And every time it left the stage, like the great man himself, you waited for its return with impatience and mounting unease.”

If you loved the film adaptation of Le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy then you’ll enjoy another twisting espionage thriller this time directed by Anton Corbijn who made the Ian Curtis Joy Division biopic Control. Recent terrorism thrillers like Zero Dark Thirty have focused on the physical with waterboarding torture scenes and covert black ops but Corbijn’s icy approach to police procedural is psychological. This isn’t always a match for Hoffman’s talent and Daniel Bruhl (Rush) feels under used as a member of his team. But there’s able support from Willem Dafoe as a banker holding the keys to Issa’s fate as the third act tension ramps towards a climax Hoffman owns.