A Most Wanted Man
Directed by Anton Corbijn
Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright, Daniel Brühl and Willem Dafoe
A Chechen Muslim illegally immigrates to Hamburg and becomes a person of interest for a covert government team which tracks the movements of potential terrorists.
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★★★★ review by Eli Hayes on Letterboxd
I thought that I could watch this movie for five more hours, just to get that much more PSH screen time in my life. Then the final fifteen minutes hit, and the tension became unbearable, and I realized that if I didn't get out of that theater soon I would probably have a goddamn panic attack. Only great movies can make me feel that way, and this is, by all means, a great movie. See it, especially for Philip's performance and the incredible denouement.
★★★★ review by Keith on Letterboxd
From the Hunt for Red October school of "speak in English but with an accent of your country" comes a slow-simmering crockpot (or whatever takes longer than a crockpot) spy procedural.
And while the tension only briefly flags, the moments where the wheezing, labored breathing of Philip Seymour Hoffman's potbellied, chain-smoking character is audible can be difficult to watch: highly effective dramatically, but a stark reminder of real-life mortality.
Rest in peace, Mr. Hoffman, you ruled.
★★★★ review by Caty Alexandre on Letterboxd
The espionage thriller that takes the intensity to the max, even following a slow pace. Not for a second let us take your eyes off the screen, not only because of the degree of intensity that passes to the audience and the gripping story but also through a sublime cinematography. With a very dark and intelligent atmosphere, A Most Wanted Man always transmits the right emotion at the limit of suspicion.
After 9/11 attacks the world has never been the same. And a brief introduction at the beginning of the film explained us that Mohamed Atta, one of the terrorists who engineered those attacks, planned them in Hamburg without any suspicion by the German Government. After the terrible events the German Government created Secret Intelligence Services that act in an attempt to dismantle possible terrorist activities. Their role is substantially important, since Germany has a minimum Muslim community and many of the Muslims who seek to immigrate there just want a better life, but Mohamed Atta supposedly would have the same intention, but after all his arrival in Germany had plans that would lead to one of the most horrific events of World History.
Günther Bachmann, magnificently performed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, is the man who leads those services. Bachmann is a tough, lonely man who is very dedicated in what he does. The arrival of a potential terrorist in town shakes the team that is already for months with another case in hands. Eventually these two cases will be crossed and Bachmann and his team will have no easy task in their hands.
The film explores the complexity not only of the Secret Service but also those who work in them. People who are dedicated and abdicate a normal life not only for the sake of the national but also global security. But as in everything, and here A Most Wanted Man can retract it very well, there are also dirty and treacherous side. The world is full of men with good intentions, and also full of those who always play their interests guiding others as puppets reaching the final trap.
It is very interesting to see the social factor in this story, the approach regarding the judgment that the world gives regarding the Muslim religion stereotyping lot of good people, what passes for terrorists only because they share the same religion, skin color or costumes, after 2001 make the world tremble. There are just good and bad human beings. I enjoyed to see this message transmitted in the film. Another very interesting aspect is to see the Anti-American side, which of course would not be shown in this way if the film had been done by an American director.
Talking about performances, I have to highlight Philip Seymour Hoffman again, a very heavy role performed in an absolutely great way, as he always accustomed us over the years, whether he in a leading or supporting role. Another actor who deserves evidence is Grigoriy Dobrygin with a very touching performance. The film has other names known as Robin Wright, Williem Dafoe, Daniel Brühl and Rachel McAdams that surprised me by the intensity that he gave in her interpretation. Undoubtedly an actress who needs the more prominent roles in her career.
The final moments of the film are absolutely powerful and with very little dialogue we can take a lot from what we are seeing. Almost like a poetic reflection of all that we watched from the beginning.
Unfortunately this was the last leading role of Philip Seymour Hoffman. An absolutely talented actor who will be very missed, but their excellent performances will remain forever. RIP.
★★★½ review by Esteban Gonzalez on Letterboxd
“To make the world a safer place.”
Director Anton Corbin followed up his slow paced thriller, The American, with this spy thriller which requires the audience’s full attention if they want to understand what is going on with the plot. It is a film driven by Philip Seymour Hoffman’s lead performance (which also happened to be his last one) which makes up for some of the minor flaws of the film. Despite being a slow film, this character kept me engaged with the story. Comparisons with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy came across my mind about fifteen minutes into the film due to the overall tone and pacing of the story along with the cynicism surrounding some of the characters and the double crossing that takes place between the different agencies. It’s a sort of cat and mouse tale that takes its time to establish itself. I didn’t quite enjoy it as much as Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy, but A Most Wanted Man is a very solid thriller which could have benefited with a little more suspense and tension. I later discovered that the film is based on John le Carré’s novel, who also happened to write the novel for TTSS so I wasn’t entirely crazy when I was comparing the two films. John le Carré was a former British spy so he really knows what he is writing about and his novels have proven to be great source material for films. The characters and the spy stories have a genuine and authentic feel to them. It didn’t hurt either that Philip Seymour Hoffman was chosen for the lead role because he drives the entire film from the opening scene to the very end (and what a great scene that was).
This isn’t your average procedural spy film, it is more interested in portraying how the system works. Each agency despite trying to work together seems to have different agendas. We also get a glimpse as to how the bureaucracy functions in these type of situations. Some are looking for quick fixes while other try to dig a little deeper and are more concerned with looking for the bigger fish and protecting the innocent. We see these differing view points through the main characters of the film who all do what they believe is right. So we get real characters who aren’t simply painted as good or bad people. Through the way they operate we discover their philosophy and the way they are thinking. As interesting as these characters are at times the film does lack to build more tension and tends to alienate the audience.
As I mentioned above, Philip Seymour Hoffman drives this film with his powerful yet subtle performance as this German security agent who is trying to avoid another 9/11 disaster. It is a cynical world in which he lives in and his physical performance translates how exhausted he is feeling. It is such a genuine performance and he never misses a note. The cast is very strong as well, with solid supporting performances from Robin Wright, Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, and Nina Hoss. I was disappointed that Daniel Bruhl was underused because he has proven to be a great actor and he should have been given a more substantial role in this film. Despite the strong cast no one seems to be at the same level as Philip Seymour Hoffman was in this film. His scene in the end was one of the best performed I've seen all year.
My only major complaint with A Most Wanted Man is the use of German accents. I understand that they would speak to American agents with these heavy accents, but it took me out of the movie when they would speak amongst themselves in English as well. I wonder why audiences seem to think it is more believable if they speak english in their german accents, when in reality it doesn’t make much sense, you might as well just let them speak plain english. But that is just a minor issue I had here because the film delivered strong performances and it was a solid and intelligent spy thriller.
★★★★ review by Lise on Letterboxd
Anton Corbijn, that's 2 for 2 now. The American and A Most Wanted Man are some of my favourite films. I love how Corbijn tells a story. Slow. Detailed. Never hurried. Both films were utterly captivating from the first frame to the last.
I would have given this one extra 1/2 star, but the issue with the accents was a tad bothersome. It was never enough to disengage from the story, and if I'm being honest I don't think I noticed half as much as my better half, but when compared to the superb accent work done in The Drop, this one definitely lacks polish. There's also the issue of making films in English when they are set in a non-English country. What is up with that? I always find it strange.
The performances were all good, and Hoffman was excellent. No drama here, just a plain, understated performance, much like Gary Oldman's in Tinker Tailer (although if I had to choose, Oldman's performance wins out). McAdams was good, Dafoe was ok but I'm increasing that to good because he's Dafoe and sexy as hell, and Wright didn't have much of a part but she was ok. I loved the look she gave Hoffman in one particular scene. Spot on.
I was so engrossed in the film that I didn't notice things like cinematography or score or anything like that so I will assume that all was done beautifully.
Thanks for the recommendation Len. Again, you were right on the money.
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