This is nearly the final film we'll ever get to see Philip Seymour Hoffman in. And I for one am just relieved that it's actually worth the price of admission. See, it's easy to get lost in the idea that everyone is just on board because one of the greats of our time made this into their swan song. But believe me when I tell you, there is far more to this movie than that.
A Most Wanted Man is an exceptionally crafted tale of espionage in the modern age... as expertly constructed by the master of the genre John le Carré. You know his work: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Constant Gardener, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. The man's been writing novels in the genre for years and there's a very good reason so many of his tales have been adapted to the screen... Still, this particular story is somehow different. It hits closer to home than those more classic tales. It takes place now (or as close to now as is necessary).
Hoffman plays a German intelligence agent desperately fighting an uphill battle to both protect his own country from terrorism and prove to other nations with larger firms that the world can be saved using more peaceful tactics rather than just shipping off every would be terrorist to some invisible prison to be tortured. It's invigorating to watch his character work and up until the final moment it is still hard to know if he is a trustworthy individual... if his plan is legitimate... if the intel is correct. This is a fascinating performance in the annuls of his career and he will be sorely missed.
Yet he is not the only actor in the movie. FAR from it. Rachel McAdams with a German accent actually does work! She gives an excellent performance. I am left wondering if there is, in fact, any role she can't play. If you compare her performance here to that of Mean Girls, it's hard to believe this is the same person. Willem Dafoe is always a pleasure to watch and does not disappoint as a conflicted banker. I also appreciated Robin Wright. And while I believe he is sadly underutilized, Daniel Brühl still manages to give a quality performance. Grigoriy Dobrygin does a fine job as the referenced title character, but at the end of the day it really isn't his movie, and that becomes apparent as the story progresses. Still, it is very interesting to watch him struggle with his past and the potentials that his future might hold.
Anton Corbijn did an admirable job. At first I couldn't really feel any style from the movie... which seemed odd because this is the same guy who directed The American, a film that only seemed to exist for the purpose of style. But as the story progressed, this beautiful flower seemed to blossom. The script was almost too smart for its own good (something I never thought I'd hear myself say), yet by the end, all of the oddness that came from the shock of entering this world of espionage seemed to dissipate in favor of a truly exceptional finale. For that, I think Andrew Bovell also deserves a great deal of credit. He managed to condense something in danger of being far too convoluted into a very watchable movie. Now that's good writing!
A Most Wanted Man is already in the Oscar discussion and it's not just because of Philip Seymour Hoffman. This is a legitimately good movie. And well worth your time.