A Most Wanted Man Review
Out of all the most recent deaths in Hollywood, I think it was Philip Seymour Hoffman's passing that hit me hardest. I wrote one of the longer eulogies for his passing back February. Still, all these months later, I still mean every word I wrote and I think we are very much missing one of our greatest modern talents. That is why it was so important for me personally, to check out "A Most Wanted Man" as soon as I possibly could. I needed to see the final summation of this man's legacy. I needed one more reason to miss this guy. Sure, I still have the first part of "Mockingjay" to look forward too, and I bet he will be great. Having said this all, I watched "A Most Wanted Man" last Friday, and I gave myself a week to sit on it, thinking about it as a whole.
There are two different types of spy film that have risen to popularity in recent years. There are the action vehicles. The James Bond's, The Jason Bourne's and the Mission Impossibles of the world. Those films are big, goofy, and completely awesome in their own rights. They may not completely stand for the confusing, disorienting, gritty world of espionage, but they are a ton of fun, and that is what they are made for. Then there are the spy films that put a mirror to that gritty world. Movies like "3 Days of Condor," or "The Parallax View," or "The Conversation," or more recently, "Body of Lies," "Syriana," and "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" that are more reality-based, but still cool. I don't think I prefer one type of spy film over the other, as I think I can enjoy both sides of the coin for what they are. "A Most Wanted Man" falls under the latter and not the former. This is a movie completely driven by its characters and its drama. That's okay, if you ask me. Not every spy movie has to have the cool gadgets, crazy chases and massive explosions. Sometimes, the story is what pulls us in and never lets its hooks out.
I am happy that Philip Seymour Hoffman dabbled in both sides. I loved "A Most Wanted Man," and even though I hated "Mission: Impossible 3," Hoffman's villain is so juicy that its worth at least a look.
A Chechen Issa (Grigoriy Dobrygin) makes his way to Hamburg, Germany. German intelligence, lead by Bachmann (Hoffman) quickly learn that Issa has ties to Islamic terrorist organizations, but they don't quite know how much. They don't see Issa as harmful, just whomever has summoned him to Hamburg, and that is who they plan to find. This situation quickly becomes a secret, international crisis as other intelligence agencies begin to get involved in the plot to get Issa. Bachmann wants his accomplice and he creates a pretty absorbing plot to figure out who that person is. Will Bachmann and his team find the problem in time? The film let's us know in the beginning title cards that partially the reason for 9/11 and countless other terrorist plots was due to competition between intelligence agencies. If our country and our allies have the same enemy in al-Queda, why are we not working together?
That is the very question "A Most Wanted Man," asks and it does so in an intense yet entertaining thriller. I have said many times that I hate it when there is an over-abundance of politics in my movies, and "A Most Wanted Man" does a great job of treading that line carefully. There are several wonderful performances in this movie, lead by Hoffman himself. Like so many characters before Bachmann, Hoffman creates a human being we as the audience can relate to. He also creates someone driven and ambitious, which he handles expertly.
The rest of the cast is solid as well. Robin Wright shows up as a representative of American intelligence and she does strong work here. Fans of "House of Cards" will be able to relate how good Wright is at being bad. Willem Dafoe plays a German banker who becomes pivotal in catching Issa's liaison, and once again Dafoe is plain awesome on screen. Then there is Rachel McAdams. Yes McAdams is in the movie, she plays a lawyer looking out for Issa, who is always in his corner. McAdams has always been an actress I have never truly cared for, but I have say, she does good work in this movie. People jaded by her normal M.O. may just be surprised. Also, I always love discovering a new actor, and I think Grigority Dobrygin will become someone to look out for.
I have never been a fan of movies that cast high-profile American actors just to draw attention. I have seen American actors try to form a wide array of accents. Some have failed, while others have flourished. I was amazed just how authentically German Hoffman, Dafoe and yes, even McAdams sounded. Had I been brand new to those actors movies and careers, I would have bet good money that they were German, and I would have lost, terribly. Great actors become their characters by completely becoming those characters. This cast really did that.
I will say that I feel the film is a little rushed at the end, especially sense it takes its time really setting up its characters and its story. I also think the ending is a little too ham-handed to really be taken seriously. But hey, this is a fun and unique spy thriller. Sometimes, that is all you really need.
FINAL GRADE: B