A Most Wanted Man

Art & Culture

John Le Carre via the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman is a tempting offer, and this film adaptation of the 2008 novel is an above average spy thriller, which is a significant improvement on some of the other films of Le Carre's work; though not quite up to the standard of The Constant Gardner.

Director Anton Corbijn has stuck pretty closely to the original, with the main change being the nationality and importance of banker Tommy Brue. In the book he is English, and a significant character. In the film, he is German (though like all the German characters, he speaks English with a faint accent), and played by Willem Dafoe. It is not a change for the better.

However the film has wisely chosen to focus on Gunther Bachmann (Hoffman), a rumpled overweight middle aged cop, whose team works undercover in hamburg – the city where 9/11 was planned. This allows the audience to become emotionally involved in his idealistic mission to save the world from islamic terror, without being too unpleasant to innocent people. In this case that means Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams), a dewy-eyed young lawyer and her client Issa who has arrived in Germany under dodgy circumstances, and who is the prime suspect. Other roles are taken by real german actors, notably the sublime Nina Hoss, and the delightful Daniel Bruhl, but all the prime roles are occupied by Americans, a form of cultural imperialism which is appropriate in the light of the film's denouement.

Le Carre has made betrayal, double crossing and hypocrisy his stock in trade, and this story is not different. The different agencies fight between each other, the Americans look on, and no one knows who to trust. Maybe the so-called bad guys aren't even that bad, when push comes to shove. It's an engaging and engrossing film which only rises above the everyday because of Hoffman whose mesmeric performance reminds us – yet again – of what a great talent has been lost to cinema by his sad demise.


Phil Raby 

Front Row Films 

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