Günther: “Why do we do what we do?
Martha: “To keep the world safe. Isn’t that a good enough reason?”
This Philip Seymour Hoffman (Günther Bachmann), Rachel McAdams (Annabel Richter), Willem Dafoe (Tommy), Robin Wright (Martha) and Grigoriy Dobrygin (Isa Karpov) starrer is directed by Anton Corbijn and based on John le Carré book of the same name.
Extensively shot in Hamburg, this movie triggered in me some lovely memories as it was the first city I visited outside India. Ah… the visuals at Reeperbahn! 😉
The complex story/plot which takes a while to unravel is set in Hamburg (Germany) where the September 11 attacks were planned. The German intelligence community is on a perennial high alert to avoid such an incident again.
Günther runs a secret spy network. His network is monitoring the activities and transactions of a Muslim philanthropist Faisal Abdullah, who he suspects has a bad side – Of being a terrorist sympathizer.
Ivan/Isa Karpov, a converted Muslim, half Chechen – half Russian, sneaks into Hamburg illegally. He is being monitored by the German agencies and Gunther’s network as he is a Jihadist.
While the German intelligence chief wants to arrest Isa to avoid any incidents, Günther wants to keep him free to see if he leads them to something bigger. This puts him at constant loggerheads with the German intelligence chief.
Isa’s motives are not known and he is helped by Annabel, a lawyer and a humanitarian.
Isa has a large inheritance from his dead father that was acquired through illegal means. The money lies in a bank belonging to Tommy, whose father knew Isa’s father. Tommy is trying to clean his father’s dubious dealings.
Once Günther learns of the inheritance and Isa’s reluctance to claim it, he uses Annabel, Isa and Tommy to lay a trap for his prime target, Faisal Abdullah. Günther makes promises to several people as part of this elaborate plot.
The Americans, represented by Martha, show keenness in helping Günther by buying him more time from the Germans to lay his trap. But can he trust Martha?
The rest of the movie is about the unraveling of the plot, the secrets, the betrayals and what happens to the people involved. All of which is poignantly told.
Bringing this complex story to life on the screen is no mean feat.
Director Anton Corbijn shines behind the camera and does a stellar job.
Complementing the excellent direction is compelling performances by most.
Hoffman is brilliant as he has been in any movie he featured in. He is well supported by Willem Dafoe, who I remember as a villain in one of the Spiderman films.
Rachel McAdams is probably the weakest link but still adequate for the role.
The background score supports the mood of the movie throughout and never once does it hijack the audience’s attention.
The camera work is good except for a couple of annoying odd angles and jerky movements that were ostensibly meant to abet the onscreen tension.
The Most Wanted Man is a nervy methodical art-house style espionage thriller.
At times the film may seem to move at a languid pace but the procedural approach to build tension rather than relying on cheap thrills, action, special effects and style, justifies the somber and gradual approach.
There are a few cinematic liberties such as use of English as the primary mode of communication by non-English characters. But these are minor things that don’t take away much from the movie.
A Most Wanted Man has been in the news a lot because the lead actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died earlier this year of a drug overdose. This film was one of his last appearances on the big screen.
But the movie also deserves to be in the news because it is one fine piece of work!
If you are a fan of good movies and can appreciate unconventional endings (I didn’t expect the twist at the very end) then I strongly recommend A Most Wanted Man.
If you miss it in the theatres, make sure to catch it on Netflix or Redbox.