A Most Wanted Man

“The subtle cat-and-mouse espionage games and relative degrees of political and personal malignancy novelist John Le Carre has famously demarcated for more than a half-century are well represented in Anton Corbijn’s film version of 2008 best-seller A Most Wanted Man. This textured thriller, rooted in Eastern immigrant-laden Hamburg, will prove absorbing to attentive audiences.

“The story is dominated by the splendidly seedy Gunther Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a spy of the old school who, in the wake of 9/11, runs a small, low-profile intelligence unit dedicated to tracking Hamburg’s large Muslim community. Wary of old cohorts in Germany’s other spy organizations, Bachmann is a chain-smoking, Scotch-swilling, unhealthy-looking relic of the bad old days, but more colorful, experienced and probably smarter than the lot of them. Hoffman looks to relish this role but doesn’t showboat in an engaging performance that stands as the central point of interest.

“Spurring the intrigue here is the arrival of a bedraggled Chechen-Russian, Issa Karpov, who purports to be the son of a former Russian military bigwig and, through human rights lawyer Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams), lays a claim to the contents of his late father’s account in a private German bank headed by Thomas Brue (Willem Dafoe). At the same time, Issa, a seemingly devout Muslim, is establishing contacts with a prominent local Muslim community leader, Dr. Faisal Abdullah, whose moderate credentials are deeply doubted by Bachmann. Bachmann’s challenge is to get the goods on Abdullah through Issa and thereby expose a whole network of illicit terrorist funding being run out of Hamburg. But for this he needs time, and the constant threat is that his rivals in other agencies, along with the Americans, will prematurely move in to snatch both Abddullah and the possibly innocent Issa.

“Close attention is required to pick up all the nuances here. The story is a jigsaw puzzle in which all the pieces are of an indistinguishable gray, making fitting them together a tricky matter. As ever with Le Carre, the ending is shot through with despair -- in the world he depicts, things never turn out quite as they should or might have. Nor is it the end of the world; that is once again put off to another day.”
- Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter


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