Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Most Wanted Man Makes Me Miss Philip Seymour Hoffman

When it comes to spy thrillers, John le Carre knows what he’s doing.  His enormously popular series The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has been made into two film trilogies and a successful British TV series.  Fewer people noticed another film adapted from one of his novels which came out last year after the death of its lead actor.  A Most Wanted Man starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Willem Defoe, and Robin Wright details covert anti-terrorism operations in post 9/11 Hamburg, Germany.  Hoffman plays covert agent Gunther Bachmann who heads a small, government run, technically illegal group of operatives whose mission is to locate, contact, and turn lower to mid-level individuals with ties to terrorist organizations operating inside Germany.  Specializing in Islamic terrorism, Bachmann has been spending years trying to ensnare a local millionaire philanthropist named Dr. Abdullah whom he suspects has been funneling legal money through his legitimate charities to Al Qaeda.  After the recent arrival of Issa Karpov, an Islamic Chechen national with ties to Russia, Bachmann sees an opportunity to not only entrap Abdullah, but perhaps use him to gain access to the real threat; the terrorist leaders he is funneling money to.  That is if the local German authorities and CIA reps don’t get to him first.  While the film has its exciting moments, its strength is in its subtleties.  The characters are all attempting to stay hidden from the authorities and while Bachmann is trying to secure Abdullah as an asset, he is also trying to look out for Karpov who is seemingly innocent and caught up in this mess because of his Russian mafia connected father.  The dialogue and cinematography reflect the espionage in that everything feels subtle, quiet, and in the shadows – just where Bachmann’s team operates.  Performances by Rachel McAdams and Philip Seymour Hoffman are stunning and while Defoe’s portrayal of the banker is good, it takes a backseat to the other stellar performances.  In the end, your adrenaline is rushing and your hope is high for the success of an operation which has taken years to put together and is so near completion.  All the chess pieces are necessary and in play as the finale approaches and it is one that leaves you both wide eyed and confused whilst leaving you to exhale as the credits roll. 

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