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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

A Most Wanted Man | Phillip Seymore Hoffman, Robin Wright, Grigoriy Dobrygin, Willem Dafoe, Rachel McAdams, Homayoun Ershadi, Nina Hoss, Daniel Brühl | Review

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5sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is EXCELLENT Judy Thorburn

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5lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is EXCELLENT


A Most Wanted Man

In his last leading role before his untimely death, Phillip Seymour Hoffman stars as Gunther Bachmann, a chain smoking, overweight, German intelligence agent who heads a small anti terrorist unit in Hamburg.

Working from a script by Andrew Bovell (Strictly Ballroom) based on John LeCarre's post 9/11 spy novel, director Anton Corbijn splendidly weaves an intricate spy drama that focuses on Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin), a mysterious half Chechen, half Russian refugee who escapes from a Russian prison after confessing to terrorist activities under torture and comes to Germany. Hoping to make a better life for himself within Hamburg's Muslim community, the 26 year old seeks to gain access to ten million euros in a bank account that he inherited from his late father, a Russian general with ties to the German mafia.  The arrival of the illegal immigrant and suspected terrorist catches the attention of Bachmann, and brings CIA agent Martha Sullivan (an icy Robin Wright, in unattractive short black hair), working out of the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, to Hamburg where she meets up with Bachmann.  Sullivan says she is an “observer”,  but like Bachmann's superiors, would like to bring Karpov in as soon as possible.  The question is whether Bachman can trust her because of an earlier, bad experience with American intelligence that were responsible for compromising Bachmann's team of agents and contacts in Beirut, Lebanon.

Bachmann is unsure of whether Karpov is innocent or a terrorist threat. Rather than arresting the young man, Bachmann chooses to keep a watchful eye on him, tracking his every move though surveillance techniques that will reveal his true intentions with the hope of using him as bait to snag a “bigger fish”.  That “person on interest” is Dr. Abdullah Faisal (Homayoun Ershadi), a Muslim Professor and activist who appears to be a peaceful, good man, but whom Bachmann believes has been using a shipping company as a front to fund terrorist weapons.  A brilliant plan is set into motion that includes enlisting the aide of a reluctant Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams),  a well meaning, idealistic, human rights attorney that wants to help Issa legally obtain asylum, Thomas Brue (Willem Dafoe) a  German banker whose father was a friend with Issa's dad and a “laundryman” for the Russian mob, and Jamal, a young Muslim intellectual working as one of Bachmann's moles inside the Islamic community whose strong connection to someone may be more than he is willing to sacrifice.

Hoffman delivers a magnificent, nuanced performance, totally immersing himself into the mindset and persona of a world weary, moral German operative whose ultimate goal is to make the world a safer place.  Always impressive, he proves once again why he was one of the best actors of his generation. Lending support in smaller roles are Nina Hoss ("Barbara") and Daniel Brühl ("Rush") as members of Bachmann's covert unit.

There are no shootouts, high speed car chases, over the top action, and surprisingly, zero body count.  Instead, and by no means is there ever a boring moment, the slow, methodical pace works in building suspense and tension through calculated strategies, moves and manipulations, in which double crosses, betrayal, and the subject of sins of the father, come into play leading up to the shocking twist at the end.

Sophisticated, intelligent, gripping, filled with intrigue, and most definitely, thought provoking, A Most Wanted Man captures your attention as one of the best spy thrillers in years.





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