A Most Wanted Man

Directed By: Anton Corbijn

Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, Daniel Brühl, Nina Hoss, and Robin Wright

The world is still reeling over the loss of the great Philip Seymour Hoffman earlier this year.  He was truly one terrific actor who could elevate the caliber of a film with his mere presence on screen.  With the passing of any celebrated artist who was still in the game at the time of his or her death, fans typically flock to theaters to see that person's final works.  Strangely enough in the case of Hoffman, this did not hold true for his film God's Pocket, which didn’t even muster $200k at the box office.  However, it seems to be holding true for A Most Wanted Man, his last film in a leading role.

Mohammed Atta and his fellow jihadists plotted the infamous September 11th attacks in the German city of Hamburg.  Since this embarrassing discovery, the Germans have become more vigilant than ever about terrorism and strive to ensure that their city never becomes the war room for terrorists again.  There's only one small problem in their way, the German constitution.  Still, a spy by the name of Günter Bachmann (Hoffman) has been tasked with running a clandestine anti-terrorist organization in Hamburg.  His focus has been developing assets who will lead to the capture and sentencing of high-profile terrorists.  The one person who stands in his way is Hamburg’s intelligence head Dieter Mohr (Rainer Bock), who prefers to arrest every terrorist or affiliate regardless of their strategic value.

Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin) is a Chechen, Russian immigrant who's made his way illegally into the country.  Making his way from a tough life marked by incarceration and torture in both his native countries, Issa connects with human rights attorney Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams).  She agrees to help him access a fortune he's inherited from his father worth tens of millions of euros, a fortune earned in misdeeds.  Branded by Mohr and the authorities as a terrorist, Issa is a wanted man in the city of Hamburg.  Bachmann sees things differently, however.  Recognizing Issa's innocence, he wants to use the half-Chechen, half-Russian young man to tap into a terrorism network that leverages charities to funnel funds to Islamic jihadists.

Though we'll see him in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Parts 1 and 2 this year and next, A Most Wanted Man is inevitably all about Philip Seymour Hoffman and far less about John le Carré's novel of the same name.  After all, it's his final lead performance.  If this is to be Hoffman's final starring role, it's not a terrible note on which to close.  However, it's not a great one either.  As the German Günter Bachmann, Hoffman delivers a layered, brooding performance in which he turns what would otherwise be a callous man of the law into someone with a moral compass who gets the big picture.  With yet another solid performance that's both understated and forceful at exactly the right moments, Hoffman elevates an otherwise mediocre film to being somewhat enjoyable.  He had a talent for doing exactly this, and we're witnessing it one last time here in A Most Wanted Man.

Beyond Hoffman's grounding performance, A Most Wanted Man is a bland affair.  Despite a stacked ensemble with the likes of Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright, and Willem Dafoe, the movie is rarely interesting when Hoffman is off screen.  The performances from his fellow cast members are pretty much underwhelming.  The narrative boasts limited thrills, which are essential in a slow espionage film like this.  The visuals are marked by pale, grim cinematography that does anything but stimulate the audience.  All in all, A Most Wanted Man is one dry flick without Philip Seymour Hoffman.

A Most Wanted Man gets a 0.06% rating.  You can thank Philip Seymour Hoffman for this.  Everything else in the film is just plainly uninteresting.  Have a few glasses of Zinfandel with this one.