Adapted from the novel by Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy author John le Carré; A Most Wanted man is a modern day tale of espionage in a post 9/11 world.
The basic plot revolves around the appearance of a Chechen Muslim in Hamburg who has illegally immigrated into the state. A possible terrorist threat, counter terrorism spy Günther Bachmann and his team must try to identify his agenda before it’s too late.
Much like many characters in A Most Wanted Man, the film itself keeps its cards close to its chest, so to say anything more in terms of story would be a crime.
A much more linear approach to story telling than in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy but none the less complex, it’s a properly grown up thriller that’s as dense as it is absorbing.
Playing on the fears of a post 9/11 world, like previous works from le Carré, the film is much more than a story about espionage. Look deeper and it’s about betrayal on every level; from within families, possible partnerships and even within your own government.
This adds a great deal of substance to the slow burning, tension riddled plot and is one of the main reasons the film works so well.
It’s directed by Anton Corbijn, whose visual stylings have impressed me in the past whether it be music videos for Arcade Fire or the excellent Ian Curtis biopic, Control. Here, he brings an incredibly real and mature direction worthy of a Paul Greengrass film, for the most part taking a step back and letting the dialogue do all the talking.
It’s very much a thriller that is just about what isn’t said as what it is and with that in mind, scenes where silence play a major part in the storytelling are amongst the best in the picture.
If all this wasn’t good enough for you, the film is headlined by an absolute powerhouse performance from the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Playing the boozing and chain smoking Bachmann with the quiet charisma Hoffman does best, it gives the film a bittersweet quality. I found myself smiling at his sheer talent but sobered by the thought of all his performances we’ll never get to see.
A fitting final curtain call however, A Most Wanted Man is a masterful and triumphant thriller. It’ll keep you on the edge of your seat in ways you didn’t think possible and whilst it’s far from basic-level entertainment, it’s intelligent, thought provoking and still largely entertaining.
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