Anton Corbijn / UK/USA/Germany / 2014 / 122 mins
The final film starring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman is one that seems all the more haunting given his captivatingly comic, soft, but commanding performance as crusty German intelligence spy Gunther Bachmann. He alone trims down a rather beefy film, as Anton Corbijn’s tense adaptation of John le Carré’s 2008 espionage novel relies on Hoffman to add wit to this watchable, but pedestrian, adventure.
Centred on the war against terror (what else?), Bachmann is hunting a Chechen-Muslim asylum seeker (Grigoriy Dobrygin) who has just arrived in Hamburg with claims to a substantial inheritance. But assisting lawyer Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams) and banker Tommy Brue (Willem Dafoe) are ensnared in Bachmann’s larger scheme to nab the real target: a financier thought to be laundering money through front-companies for al-Qaeda.
It’s tough to see how Corbijn’s terrorist thriller is any different to the culture of plot-foiling dramas we’re under siege with. A satisfying dénouement answers to the film’s pace but it outweighs the actual story – which is a shame as Andrew Bovell’s screenplay is at times beautifully nuanced and deft. Still, A Most Wanted Man is by no means a shoddy version of le Carré’s text, it just struggles to get across the finish line and ironically lacks the kind of intrigue and dynamic insight that can be found in Corbijn’s documentaries.