Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Movie Review - A Most Wanted Man

My daughter and I saw this last week and we both quite liked it.  Highly recommended.

As I'm sure you know, Philip Seymour Hoffman died earlier this year.  I had not given much though about him as an actor as I had not seen much of his work. In this, his last picture, he gives a pretty good performance as German spy Günter Bachmann. Bachmann is in charge of a small German spy unit of questionable legality, who operates in Hamburg, Germany. The unit's purpose, in this post-911 world we live in, is to develop contacts in the Muslim community in Hamburg.

Their main target has been the organization of  Dr. Faisal Abdullah, who appears to be a respected Muslim academic and philanthropist, but whom Bachmann believes is funneling some of that philanthropy to radical organizations in the Middle East. One day, Issa Karpov, wanted for various terrorist actions in his native Chechnya, turns up in Hamburg. Karpov makes contact with Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams), a young human rights lawyer. Karpov claims to have the right to his father's (a Russian army officer) inhertance, which is being held by a German bank run by Tommy Brue (William Dafoe). But Karpov claims he doesn't want the money, in fact, he hates his father and wants nothing to do with him.

Bachmann cooks up a scheme to use the money to trap Abdullah. Of course he has to get the approval of more legitimate organizations. He makes his case to the Hamburg head of intelligence, some other shadowy Germans and Martha Sullivan, local CIA agent.  They agree with his plan. I don't want to give much more plot than this or I'll ruin the story.

This is a very adult film. I mean adult in the way that comic book super hero movies are generally not adult. The movie is all about Bachmann developing his plan and his team working it out. It's about gaining the trust of people who inherently aren't inclined to trust you. Bachmann has to gain the trust of Tommy Brue who has his banker father's history as a money launderer to hide, and the trust of Richter who is trying to protect Karpov. She must gain the trust of Karpov.

In the end, all that trust ends in massive betrayal, which neither my daughter nor I saw coming but was the perfect end of the movie.

Although this is a spy movie, it is not like a James Bond spy movie. No gadgets, barely any guns, no shooting, no high speed chases. Only one real punch thrown. I haven't read the book by John Le Carre but based on the summary of the book in Wikipedia, the movie is very faithful to the book. 82-year-old Le Carre, wrote the book in 2008 and is listed as an executive producer of the film. I guess he was able to maintain some creative control.

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