Thanks to Roadshow Films we got to see A Most Wanted Man on the week of it’s Australian release. Here is our review of the film but as ever this is just out opinion and there is no better critic than yourself!
A Most Wanted Man (AMWM) is one of the eagerly anticipated final films of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman and, much like other occasions where an actor has passed away with multiple projects yet to be released, a great deal of hype surrounds their remaining work – particularly when the actor is of the calibre of Hoffman.
Adapted from John Le Carre’s 2008 novel of the same name and directed by Anton Corbijin, the story depicts the work of a secret anti-terror agency following the events of Septemeber 11. Whilst the political landscape of the world has changed much since Le Carre penned his classic spy thriller, the fascination with the surveillance methods of the worlds most secretive organisations is still rife today. However, to clarify for audiences that may have read Le Carre’s work, and for those that have not, the director clearly defines in the opening sequence the time, place and context of the events that the story is set.
The film takes place in the port city of Hamburg, a city synonymous with the 9/11 attacks as it was the base for Mohammed Atta a fact that came to light following the investigation into the atrocities. In the decade that followed the attacks, security in the city has been heightened in fear of it playing a role in other such incidents in the future.
The film portrays the work of a German secret anti-terror organisation, led by Gunter Bachmann (Hoffman). His agency does not merely lurk in the shadows but are, in fact, the shadows. The film is a controversial expose of the methods secretive organisations utilise but also for it’s dealings with the ideas of modern terrorism issue and the perceived ‘Muslim threat’ to Western civilisation.
It follows the arrival on German soil of Issa Karpov, a Chechen Muslim who has escaped persecution and is seeking asylum. He is the son of a former tyrant that brutally slaughtered thousands for which his son has renounced him, yet still carries the blood of the innocent on his hands.
When in Germany, he befriends an elderly Muslim woman who shelters him with her boxer son. They seemingly have had their own struggles with remaining in the country, as they reach out to a friend that is a human rights lawyer specialising in asylum seekers played by Rachel McAdams.
Meanwhile, the arrival of Issa has not gone unnoticed by Hoffman and his anti terrorism team and they quickly hatch a plan to use the Chechen, and the millions hidden by his farther in a German bank, in order to expose a philanthropist community leader that is being investigated for ties to charities that are believed to fund terrorism.
AMWM explores the lengths that anti-terror agents will go to in order to stem the threat to Western society. From developing assets through manipulation or simple blackmail, the tactics have a gritty reality to them that is both believable and disturbing all at once.
However, what is quite different in this film is that these deceptions don’t come without a price and that toll is shown on the weary, drawn and haggard features of Hoffman’s character whose backstory, given he is the lead character, is as murky to the audience as his work. All we are told is that he has been stationed in Hamburg due to a failed operation in his past but even this, as the story unfolds, is brought into question.
This is not James Bond or the Bourne Identity. It’s a thinking man’s spy thriller that is methodical, melancholy and remorselessly slow paced (think Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy). What it has in place of all out action is an intelligent story line that keeps the audience guessing throughout and that showcases the fact that nothing is black and white in the world of espionage. It also deals with the issues of trust within opposing agencies that are supposed to be seeking the same end to terrorism, whilst each has its own ideas of collateral damage.
Ultimately, it’s difficult to view this picture without a tragic sense of loss, as it demonstrates the incredible talents of Hoffman. Whilst the pace of the film and the intricacies of the plot won’t be to everyone’s liking, the undeniable gifts that Hoffman brings to the performance make it worth a watch.