A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Phillip Seymour Hoffman was an incredible man with exceptional talents. Tragically taken well before his time, his last few pictures have been ones that do anything but discredit a man of his caliber. One of the final pictures to be released starring the late, great acting sensation is a gritty, sophisticated and thought-provoking thriller based on the novel written by the author of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”; it’s fair to say that PSH is once again at his usual best.
Set in the stunning harbour city of Hamburg, Germany, “A Most Wanted Man” centres around an anti-terrorism group and the process involved in bringing an illegal Chechen Muslim into society. Günter Bachmann (Hoffman), part of Hamburg’s watchful eye on potential threats to the city is informed of Issa Karpov, an illegal immigrant that lays claim to a supposed fortune of his late father’s.
Suspicious and invested in the case, Bachman follows the man, tracking his movements and associates himself with Annabel Richter (Rachael McAdams) who is Karpov’s lawyer. Focusing on politics, law, terrorism, protection and religion, “A Most Wanted Man” is a cleverly crafted slow-burning thriller that waits until the closing stages to escalate into something quite powerful.
The story is quite common, but at the same time there are numerous elements that are very bold and striking in their relevance and importance. The setting of Hamburg (where I currently reside) is an excellent feature, but having seen the film with some local friends familiar with the city’s layout, there are some critical continuity errors when it comes to location of characters. Nit-picking aside, the city is shown off in all it’s glory, as well as exploring it’s dirtier, grittier areas – all making for an intriguing story. There are brief scenes that are set in Berlin, however the majority of the picture is set in the northern harbour city in which nearly every major landmark is displayed unashamedly.
The performances all round are what make the film so engrossing. The plot may become a tad confusing at times, but the flawless performances of Hollywood royalty such as Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Willem Dafoe carry it along brilliantly. Dafoe, who plays an exceedingly wealthy bank owner, is at what some would argue is his all-time best. His talents are endless, and he is able exert a substantial portion of them in “A Most Wanted Man”; the man is a powerhouse.
As for the ‘primary’ character of the film, Grigoriy Dobygin who plays Karpov is very commendable. He evokes immense sympathy and creates a great divide amongst his associates. He has experienced true horror in his life, and the broken, shattered character does more than illustrate it. Your heart breaks for this man.
Other supporting roles from the likes of Robin Wright, Daniel Brühl, Nina Hoss and Homayoun Ershadi are excellent all around. Everyone gives a stellar performance and it pays off in the end.
“A Most Wanted Man” was quite a highly anticipated picture, particularly more so following the devastating loss of another Hollywood icon in Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Thrilling, chilling and slow-paced, the film builds and builds but ever so slowly. It is the sign of a great thriller when it shocks, intrigues and keeps you focused; needless to say “A Most Wanted Man” achieved that, however it could have offered just a little more. It’s not one of the year’s best films, but it’s a great picture to keep you interested through the average forthcoming September film season…