A MOST WANTED MAN | MOVIE REVIEW

In a fitting end to life and career Philip Seymour Hoffman departs us with one of this best films. Kernel Andrew was the lucky one to hit up this fine film, A MOST WANTED MAN, starring the wonderful Hoffman, Defoe, Wright and McAdams based on a novel from John Le Carré. A MOST WANTED MAN is out now at quite a few cinemas (check your local directories) from Roadshow Films Australia. It is rated M and runs for 121mins. Enjoy Andrew’s review below…….all the best……JK.

 

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A MOST WANTED MAN | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | MOVIE POSTER

 

REVIEW BY ANDREW BRUSENTSEV

I think it is quite apt that Philip Seymour Hoffman, a man who would be at home in any movie or stage left a final performance worthy of his reputation. In fact this movie may be considered by many (this writer included) to be his master class in slow burn, intense, beneath-the-surface style acting. He is absolutely riveting as he mutters, growls and schemes his way through most of A MOST WANTED MAN. Fittingly, one of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final performances is in a movie about role-playing.

But the movie is not just held up by the skills of one actor alone. A MOST WANTED MAN is set in Hamburg and is an adaptation of a 2008 novel by master spy storyteller John Le Carré. Adapted for the screen by director Anton Cobrijn. To me it is superior to the last Le Carré adaptation TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY. Like many of Le Carre’s novels it covers many of the same themes. Indeed nearly all of his movies are painstakingly detailed recreations of men and women usually on opposing sides (the Cold War or the War on Terror) who constantly try to outthink each other. This plotting and scheming usually affects their lives and the lives on in those around them.

 

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A MOST WANTED MAN | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | ANNABEL RICHTER ( RACHEL MCADAMS) AND ISSA KARPOV (GRIGORIY DOBRYGIN)

 

Hamburg is a poignant city in the post 9/11 world. In fact it is the city where the 9/11 attacks were planned. It is one of the world’s great shipping ports. The Hamburg ports link West to East and the West to the Middle East. There is much for the grey men of the spy world to do here. In fact given the present situation there is much for “terrorists” to do here as well. We learn in the opening credits that the city has been on high alert ever since the 9/11 attacks. Because of this spy agencies monitor the docksides to watch the comings and goings of other shadowy men. It is into this world that slips an emaciated looking Chechen Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin). We see him emerging from the murky Elbe River onto the Hamburg docks via a ladder in the opening moments.

His arrival is not unnoticed. Indeed Gunther Bachmann (Hoffman), who heads up a counter terror unit (one which operates on the fringes of the German Law) notices through his network of well-placed spies. Gunther is brilliant, a skilled manipulator, an almost constant smoker and drinker. He is impulsive and methodical, calculated and passionate. Gunther’s unit also comprises Nina Hoss and Daniel Bruhl (two rising German, European and World stars) in supporting roles as key members of his unit.

All assume that Issa is here to contact an Islamic terror cell in Hamburg. The counter terror unit begins to monitor his every movement. Instead of contacting known groups though he moves in with some fellow refugees who understanding his situation immediately refer him to a human-rights lawyer, Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams). After their initial meeting and seeing Issa’s scars (from Russian torture), Annabel begins an application for political asylum.

 

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A MOST WANTED MAN | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | TOMMY BRUE (WILLEM DEFOE) AND GÜNTHER BACHMANN (PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN)

 

We learn along the way that Issa is actually the estranged son of a corrupt and brutal Russian general who has squirrelled away millions in a German Bank. Issa has all the proof he needs to get this money out. The money is in a bank, run by Tommy Brue (Dafoe), whose operations are not strictly legal. But what does Issa want to do with this money? It seems on the surface that Issa is a religious peaceful man, is there more to him? Or is he just a victim of circumstance and situation.

Gunther sees an opportunity here. He has been monitoring a philanthropist Dr. Faisal Abdullah (Homayoun Ershadi) who represents several Islamic charities. Perhaps Faisal and Issa can be steered into a meeting. Faisal is under the watchful eye of the CIA and Gunther’s team as he may not be entirely legitimate. Could Issa’s money be used to watch what happens to it?

This is when the CIA appears in the form of the icy and manipulative CIA agent Martha Sullivan (Robin Wright). The scene is set but how will all of this play out?

 

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A MOST WANTED MAN | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | GÜNTHER BACHMANN (PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN)

 

The performances from all involved are excellent. The standout as mentioned before is Hoffmann who really is at the peak of his power here. But everyone in front of the lens makes this a taut and excellent thriller. But one removed from nearly all explosion and action. A thriller with a very real message.

Credit must be given to Australian script writer Andrew Bovell (best known for Lantana) in adapting Le Carre’s work. There is a strong narrative which still has plenty of spaces for nuance and subtlety. Rather than choke the narrative with details, the filmmakers keep the story lean while adding evocative visual and aural details.

Cobrijn should also be given full credit. A former film clip maker he really has a gift for framing a shot and colouring it to perfection. This is not entirely his doing and Benoit Delhomme who shot the movie on the streets of Berlin and Hamburg gives this movie an authentic gritty washed out feel.

If anything A MOST WANTED MAN is a nuanced parable on the situations we find ourselves in today. It is realistic and clever with a strong moral underneath. It also reminds the World what we lost in Hoffmann.

 

4 and a Half Pops

 

 

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