A Most Wanted Man (4 stars)

A Most Wanted Man

Anton Corbijn directs cleverly tangled, high-tension John Le Carre tale featuring late Philip Seymour Hoffman performance

A Chechen refugee, Issa (Grigoriy Dobrygin) seeks asylum in Hamburg with the help of human rights lawyer Annabal (Rachel McAdams), but his situation is complicated by more than brutalisation at home: he has a claim on a fat bank account left for him by his late father, a wealthy Russian. Up prick the ears of local spymaster Gunther (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who keeps an eye on local Islamic extremists. Is the money earmarked for jihadists; and even if not, could it be used as bait for their supporters? As loyalties are divided and sub-divided, illicit desire darts between the characters – Gunther’s cool-headed colleague (Nina Hoss) has a weakness for him; Gunther shares an ambiguous flirtation with steely CIA agent Martha (Robin Wright); and the earnest, giving Annabel draws longing looks from Gunther, Willem Dafoe’s weary bank boss and the beleaguered Issa himself. Based on a late novel by John Le Carre, this cleverly tangled tale takes a risk by having recognisable American actors affect German accents, but the performances are otherwise strong enough and the narrative sufficiently absorbing that they either convince or at least don’t distract. Anton Corbijn, famed rock photographer and director of Control and The American, knows how to keep tension high using personalities and politics rather than guns and car chases, and the late and greatly lamented Hoffman is a lovely fit as one of Le Carre’s dilapidated, disappointed anti-heroes, whose post-ideological bafflement regarding the point of what he’s doing feels wholly convincing. ('To make the world a safer place,' is Martha’s bright assertion - but her wry smile says that even she knows that it’s not that simple.) Only McAdams’ character seems off; the film isolates her unconvincingly (where are her colleagues?), and she seems too young and vulnerable to be flying solo over such dangerous ground.

A Most Wanted Man

  • 4 stars
  • 2014
  • Germany / US / UK
  • 2h 1min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Anton Corbijn
  • Cast: Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Willem Dafoe, Daniel Brühl, Nina Hoss
  • UK release: 12 September 2014

A Chechen Muslim illegally immigrates to Hamburg, where he gets caught in the international war on terror. Featuring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.