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SFF’14 Movie Review: “A Most Wanted Man”

January 30, 2014

Screen shot 2014-01-30 at 6.06.41 PM

John le Carré has brought us vast contemporary, cerebral tales of intrigue, love, rivalry, espionage and politics in the past. His classic “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” had redefined the spy genre. Now we’re given an adaptation of his latest work, the post-9/11 thriller “A Most Wanted Man”.

When a half-Chechen, half-Russian named Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin), an immigrant viciously tortured 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 case is led by the brutish German agent, Günther Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman), with the help of a banker (Willem Dafoe), and an immigrant lawyer (Rachel McAdams), the race is on to establish this most wanted man’s true identity; is he an oppressed victim or a radical extremist with an unspoken agenda?

Performance-wise, the movie is a tad plain, all with the exception of Hoffman, who commands the scene, sometimes simply by smoking his 100th cigarette. The silent-type anti-heroes are usually le Carré’s major strengths. There are similarities between Günther & George Smiley (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), both have the devotion to country, finding their target, and present themselves in a natural commanding stance with silent tactics.

However, being a John le Carré story, there’s the nerving slow burn pace, leading to a questionable payoff, much to my dismay, I do feel that, while the slow burn pace is well placed together, I feel that the climax was anti-climactic. You get a sense that something unexpected will show up, and when it does, you’re left wondering what the hell just happened, and if there’s anyway it can be resolved. To place the characters in a position where giving up is the only option is disappointing.

Be that as it may, up until the last five minutes, I will recommend this film for people that are fans of slow burn thrillers, and of course the presence of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who’s in complete dastardly good form here. Hopefully you can look past all the other actors phony German accents, Rachel McAdams is perhaps the worst.


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