Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last complete film, A Most Wanted Man, is a saddening reminder of just how tragic his loss is to the world and how immeasurably talented and rare the actor was.
The film is an adaptation of the 2008 page-turner by John Le Carre and while the film is a solid yet unspectacular spy thriller, it’s the commanding and magnetic performance by Hoffman that elevates the material far beyond its basic premise and execution.
Basked in post-9/11 hysteria, the film follows a European intelligence agency that is lead by Gunter Bachmann (Hoffman). Bachmann’s role is to oversee an anti-terrorism unit that is based in high-alert Hamburg, Germany.
When a Chechen-Russian Islamist, Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin – sympathetic) sneaks undetected across Hamburg’s heavily-secured borders, he automatically becomes Bachmann’s primary terror suspect to surveil and intercept.
Karpov on the other hand, unaware of his alerted status in the country, is simply seeking asylum from a country that had tortured him into submission. Further mudding the waters is Human rights attorney Annabel Ritcher (Rachel McAdams – capable, but underused) who tries to help the asylum seeker, while implicating herself as aiding a suspected terrorist.
The broody, yet methodical thriller goes through the motions of your typical anti-Bond spy thriller. Dialogue is filled with angst and political implications, but the stakes are never lifted high enough to care enough about the possible outcomes. It’s a very grounded and seemingly plausible thriller, which means it’s not altogether very entertaining.
Director Anton Corbijn fills his frame with a pleasing assortment of dull greys and blues, and makes sure that the poverty and lurking danger of the city is always on full display. His camera work is commendable and handsome.
Hoffman towers over the film and there is no denying that he is the major drawcard here. When the script isn’t drawing the audience in, it’s his every moment and action on screen that will make you want to see it through to the end.
It remains a smart film that holds with it the fragments of a generational actor whose personal demons may or may not be revealed on screen.
Such a waste. Such a loss.
THE VERDICT: 3/5
Genre: Spy Thriller, Drama
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Grigoriy Dobrygin, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright
Directed by: Anton Corbijn
Written by: Andrew Bovell
Studio: Film4 Productions, Demarest Films, The Ink Factory, Potboiler Productions, Entertainment One
Running time: 122 minutes