A Most Wanted Man
A Most Wanted Man marks one of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final films before his early and regrettable death. Coming out of the film all I could think was what a huge loss to the world of acting he is.
Based on the John Le Carre novel, A Most Wanted Man much like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy moves at a slow pace, with less emphasis on Bourne Identity style action but more melancholic subtleties focused primarily on the dialogue.
The story takes place in German in a post-9/11 world where a secret organisation has been set up to root out terrorist cells within Hamburg, a city renowned for its port and subsequent access from fundamentalist states.
Gunther (Hoffman) heads the elite unit and is made aware of a young and confused suspect who has entered the city, Issa, a Chechen refugee converted to Islam. Issa is of significant interest and immediately draws Gunther’s gaze as a suspect, but Issa finds himself discontented and lost in a new country.
As we learn more about Issa we realise he is not necessarily the man people think he is, the reality is that Issa has come to Germany to claim his late father’s fortune, a man he despised. Willem Dafoe plays Tommy Brue a rich banker who is tasked with arranging the transfer, but soon becomes one of Gunther’s puppets.
It becomes apparent that Hoffman has been placed in Germany as a sort of punishment for failures in the middle east in the past, with his relationship with American’s a particular moot point for him.
However when he finds himself owing favours to CIA operative Robin Wright, of House of Cards fame, you realise he is a man desperate for redemption at all costs.
Issa’s confusion his helped throughout the film by Annabel Richter, a young lawyer (Rachel McAdams) who is described as a “Social worker for terrorists” by Gunther. Her faith in Issa as a person ultimately does come to fruition as it turns out all he wants is to rid himself of the burden of his hated father’s money.
Gunther uses this to arrange for the money to be transferred to a bigger fish to distribute amongst charities of his recommendation, suspecting that he is indeed a source of income for terrorist groups in the middle east.
As the film reaches a climax there is a brief glimmer of action that might make Bourne fan’s take note, but in reality this film is not an action thriller but a demonstration of acting talent and complex story telling.
When all is said and done and Hoffman finds himself betrayed once more, you come to realise that Issa and Gunther are the same person, lost amongst past misdemeanours, trying to make up for failures and searching for redemption from those around them, and themselves. Try as they might however both lives are doomed to failure and the betray at the end of the film really optimises their lives to that point.
A Most Wanted Man is a fantastic film if you appreciate dialogue over gun fights, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was more complex, but it didn’t have Hoffman. The same can be said for a lot of films and sadly will be the case for any future casting decision, a sad loss to the world of cinema but what he leaves us in A Most Wanted Man is yet another case of exemplarily character acting.