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A Most Wanted Man - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
A Most Wanted Man
Directing: B+
Acting: B+
Writing: B+
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B

A Most Wanted Man won't be the last movie in which we get to see Philip Seymour Hoffman (that will be Mockingjay), but it will be his last starring role. If a man has to bow out early, this one's not a bad role to do it with.

Spy movies don't always do it for me, but there's something unusually compelling about this one, arguably thanks to the actors. Hoffman is at the center of it all as German anti-terrorist agent Günter Bachmann, an almost broken man still dealing with the aftermath of past mistakes. He's after the Chechen/Russian Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin), who has immigrated illegally, but only to use him to get at the much larger target. Karpov doesn't know this, though, and seeks the aid of human rights attorney Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams), who also connects him with banker Tommy Brue (Willem Dafoe) in an attempt to gain access to Karpov's late father's sizeable fortune.

Karpov states that he doesn't want the "dirty money" his father accrued immorally. Director Anton Corbijn, working with a script adapted from a novel by John le Carré, clearly wants Karpov's genuine motives to be ambiguous, but they become clear soon enough. Bachmann is all about manipulating Karpov, and he ropes as many people into these manipulations as possible, usually by dubious means. Both Annabel and Tommy get sucked into his game.

This is all somewhat convoluted in the beginning, yet compelling. Somewhat incongruously, the key part of an American agent played by Robin Wright is ultimately oversimplified. She is meant to complicate things further, but in the end all she is, is a plot trigger.

Most of the action takes place in Hamburg, where it is not widely known that the September 11 attacks were planned. A title card at the opening of film alerts us to this fact, to set the scene of a city where a decade later the authorities are still on "high alert," determined never to make the same mistakes again. Tensions follow, between the German anti-terrorist group, their superiors in the German government, and the CIA. These tensions are ultimately the key point in the film, the separate pieces of the puzzle that don't quite fit together perfectly until the final sequence of the film.

The disparate intentions of all these different characters are played with subtle skill. (Even Rachel McAdams's German accent is pretty convincing.) For much of the film, it's tempting to conclude that this is an engaging but not a particularly memorable story, but the ending reveals it to have been something of greater depth. A Most Wanted Man is not a perfect movie, but it offers a kind of bittersweet satisfaction you didn't see coming.

Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Wright are caught in a web of deceit in A MOST WANTED MAN.

Overall: B+
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