Skip to main content

Review: A Most Wanted Man


Throughout the beginning of Anton Corbijn's A Most Wanted Man it is hard to ignore that there are only a handful of performances left from Philip Seymour Hoffman in this world. The actor's untimely death earlier this year left a hole in the world of cinema. One that will not be filled anytime soon. Hoffman was a character actor who managed to become A-list, without ever losing his chameleon-like ability to channel whatever or whomever he wanted.

Gunther Bachmann is more down-to-earth than the other prototypical spy genre leading men, likely to flash a quick grin after a disparaging comment rather than take down an army of terrorists single-handedly. As Gunther, Hoffman affects a German accent and an unwillingness to look anyone in the eye. Whether this gesture is meant to shield his contempt for his peers in the intelligence community is anyone's guess. Bachmann holds his cards close to the chest.

His latest operation concerns a Chechen immigrant living in Hamburg illegally. Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin) is seeking refuge in Germany after being tortured in Russia and his endgame remains unclear: Is he merely a victim of cruel treatment, or an extremist that could ultimately lead to Gunther's primary target, Abdullah (Homayoun Ershadi). Abdullah tours around the globe lecturing on tolerance toward Islam in a post-9/11 world, though Gunther suspects other motives beyond philanthropy.

Karpov poses a huge risk to the international community. He's spent time in Russian prisons, but it's not apparent why, and he is set to receive an inheritance from his father that could finance a massive attack. The stakes couldn't be higher and Gunther's agency is not the only one on the hunt. Other German agencies are attempting to pull rank and the U.S. has taken an interest in his operation, manned by Martha Sullivan (Robin Wright).

As the operation gains players in the form of human rights lawyer, Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams) and finance banker Tommy Brue (Willem Dafoe), the clock continues to tick and Gunther has a limited window to make sense of it all. Like another film based on a John le Carré novel, A Most Wanted Man burns slow and runs at a pace that most audiences are not conditioned to expect. Gunplay is not rampant, and there are no car chases. A majority of the intel gathered by Gunther and his anti-terror unit and network of sources comes from sitting, waiting and watching.

Anton Corbijn utilizes hand-held to committ to the screen not just a sense of urgency, but the details that come from closing in on the faces of his primary actors. There isn't a lot of action to be captured, just the observation of the sights of Hamburg, Germany and the players of international terrorism with Corbijn carefully composing it all for our consumption.

Corbijn has already turned in a tense thriller this decade (The American), but where A Most Wanted Man transcends that effort is in its central role, dutifully occupied by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman lets the character of Gunther permeate through his system to where he simply lets Gunther inhibits his skin, becoming another disillusioned spy stuck in a system where too often bureaucracy and bloodlust trumps actual intelligence.

Hoffman has two films left in his filmography, but this is his last lead role, and what a masterful legacy he leaves. Hoffman justifies A Most Wanted Man as essential viewing on his performance alone. It simply should not be missed.

Popular posts from this blog

Paprika vs. Inception

Months before Inception hit the theaters forums were alive with rumors that Christopher Nolan either accidentally or intentionally stole some details from another film, the Japanese anime Paprika. The biggest point of comparison for some bloggers and forum runners was the fact that both of the films featured a device that allowed a person, or people, to travel into another’s dreams and delve into their subconscious.
Minor points of comparison include scenes in Paprika where the character Paprika breaks through a mirrored wall by holding her hand to it, as well as a scene where a police detective falls his way down a hallway. Claims have been made that Inception abounds with imagery similar to or exactly like the anime movie, but with the recent release of the film on DVD and Blu-Ray, and with Paprika available for several years now, an examination of the two plots can be made more fully.
Let us begin with the primary claim—Inception stole the idea of a dream machine from Paprika. It …

Herman Melville and Office Space

Just from gleaning the surface of Office Space one would assume that there isn't anything simmering below the surface except for a raunchy work-comedy, but they would be wrong.
After the harsh critical reception of his greatest work Moby Dick Melville wrote a collection of short stories called Bartleby and Benito Cereno perhaps the greatest slam at the time against industrial America. Bartleby is the story of a Wall Street copyist who has his three employees proof-read and copy law forms. Shortly into the story Bartleby starts responding to work commands with, "I would prefer not to." Frustrated by his employee's subordination the Narrator tries to have him fired but Bartleby refuses to leave the office. The Narrator comes back the following morning to find Bartleby living inside his office. Bartleby becomes increasingly less apt to perform basic functions as eating after he is jailed for trespassing and dies in a jail cell. What at once starts out as a comedy has …

Blumhouse's Truth or Dare Giveaway

We’re not playing the game, it’s playing us! A harmless game of "Truth or Dare" among friends turns deadly when someone--or something--begins to punish those who tell a lie--or refuse the dare. Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare, opening in theaters Friday the 13th! To celebrate the release of this terrifying new film we have a Truth or Dare giveaway for readers. Play the app below with a friend and take the Truth or Dare challenge to see who survives. To enter, tag a friend you'd bring along to the film to @wordsbycbiggs on Twitter and use the #TruthOrDareMovie hashtag. One lucky winner will receive a prize pack, which includes: 1 - Limited Edition Truth or Dare Card Game: This limited edition Truth or Dare Game is only available via this promotion and has a run of 200 pieces worldwide. It has a card deck featuring dares and the creepy crawly items you need to satisfy the dares in the deck. Test your resolve… The truth will set you free! 1 - Truth or Dare Official Promo Tank - O…