Written by / 7/26/2014 / No comments / , , , , , ,

A POSTHUMOUS PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN IN A MOST WANTED MAN

year: 2014 rating: ***1/2
The late Philip Seymour Hoffman always did vanish into his roles, and as German anti-terrorist agent Günther Bachmann, becoming someone else is a requirement...

Being that Hoffman, an American, is playing a German, speaking English with a thick accent and hunkered down in a stuffy office adorned by photos and tacked-on dossiers, providing his life’s work in a claustrophobic office/purgatory where Bachmann takes his job seriously… As seriously, in fact, as Hoffman took his entire cinematic career: And in this case, it’s a sublime yet subtle combination for fans of the actor and the potboiler genre.  

Based on a spy novel by slowburn espionage guru John le Carré, A MOST WANTED MAN is surprisingly basic and, unlike other movies of this kind, doesn’t expect the audience to follow impossible red herrings while suffering overlong doldrums to get to the good parts.

Throughout the cat and mouse maze, centering on Bachmann and his associates keeping tight eyes on a Chechen Muslim immigrant who literally washed up on the shore of Hamburg, Germany, we get equal glimpses into the trudging journey of Issa Karpov and those following him, eventually veering into a subliminal romance with Rachel McAdam's Annabel Richter, an idealistic lawyer helping Issa dodge those who may hinder his apparent “cause,” which, set post 911, is highly questionable.

RIP
There are predictable elements, like the very ending – no shock to anyone familiar with espionage flicks peripherally dealing with the American government – and the fact this wanted man is really a misunderstood victim of circumstance, deleting an important element of suspense had he been more ambiguous. By the young actor’s sheepish countenance alone, we know he’s got nothing to hide but himself. 

But it's really fun watching Hoffman’s agent slowly crawl out of his brooding shell, becoming more than a mellow observer in a progressively arduous task he’s done many times, which is apparent by his world-weary expressions. Only a great actor could provide a character’s entire history without use of expository flashbacks or back-story, and very little dialogue.

In Hoffman’s case, it’s all in the eyes. He seems to look through just about anyone to get to what he knows already. Damn shame life had to intrude upon art.
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