A Most Wanted Man – Review
“A Most Wanted Man” starring Robyn Wright, Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, Daniel Bruhl and Philip Seymour Hoffman in the lead (his final role) is a contemporary first class, top notched suspenseful spy thriller.
As background, it’s a decade later after 9/11 and the west is determined never to ever let that horrific day happen again. Modern espionage is now running at its maximum surreptitious peak, 24 hours a day, every imaginable location, doing the nose to the grind stone hard work, with strategies being planned and executed, people being watched through surveillance, thumb drives being passed in cigarette boxes, spies masquerading as cab drivers and operatives working in dark secluded places using a cadence knock at doors. It’s a new day and everyone around the world is vigilant now in making sure to connect the dots; every single dot as to who is the enemy is, what is he thinking and what is he doing.
The film’s story starts in Hamburg Germany where we find a highly seasoned BNA German Intelligence Analyst Officer named Gunter (Hoffman) who receives information that someone suspicious was seen swimming from a shipping freighter to the shore of the Hamburg city’s port. They soon discover he is a Muslim man named Karpov from Russia who has been trying to conceal his arrival. Through operatives on the street Gunter discovers Karpov has been asking for the location of a bank with a reputation of handling large sums of money from abroad, mostly from countries in the Middle East. And it’s with that revelation Gunter suspicions become more heighten. So with his German counter intelligence team in tow they immediately lock the full force of their focus on this suspect. Let the intellectual cat and mouse chase begin.
This film has three strong points going for it. First, it showcases the real world of intellectual espionage with its less than glamorous analysts who are always tediously working each moment of the day constantly filtering though intricate mazes of data and surveillance of questionable people. Two, while this film has a plethora of moving parts, its excellent screenplay made it very easy for this viewer to understand and connect all the story line plot points at every turn. And finally, with a strong ensemble acting cast to tell this intricate tale of modern espionage led by the late Hoffman, I believe (for me) “A Most Wanted Man” is one of the best spy thrillers I have seen in a long time.
But the real ever-present strength in this film comes PS Hoffman. He reminded us once again that he was not just a great actor, he may have been one of the ten best actors of all time (in my estimation). He takes what could have been in lesser hands a rather simple man name Gunter who liked the music of Bach and turn him into “Bond”, only with a gray hair, a bulging gut, a disheveled look and wobbly walk and poor posture. Hoffman’s Gunter is a real spy who is mentality gifted in mixing his years of expert knowledge with harmless cynical wit. Hoffman makes sure to infuse his character with a high degree of intelligence and at the same time making sure everyone in any room he is occupying know he is the smartest person in that room without ever letting himself seemingly being smug about it.
To me PSH legacy of performances seemed to transcend that simple title as an “actor”. For me, he was a thespian; managing to bring a theatric quality to all of his performances, whether it was in “Boogie Nights”, “Capote”, “Doubt” or “Moneyball”. He shined in all those films without ever being showy or the need to be the center of the action. His excelling strength was his ability to take a character and bring them to complex life from some place inside himself towards the surface of his face, to his voice and to the movie screen itself for us to ponder and enjoy.
At the very end of “A Most Wanted Man”, we see a pensive Gunter (Hoffman), contemplating. He’s looking into the distance, clearly frustrated and angry, but he doesn’t say a word; because you can feel his rage; you can see it in his face; you can see it in his eyes. This was the master craftsmanship Hoffman brought to every role; the power of the subtle, of the complex, of the intricate and the sublime, without ever saying a word.
3 – 3/4 Stars