Blu-ray Review – A Most Wanted Man (2015)

a-most-wanted-man-Phillip-Seymour-Hoffman

The cold, hard fact that after Mockingjay Part 2 later this year there will be no more Philip Seymour Hoffman performances to enjoy grieves me. The guy was a fantastic actor who gave it his all in every role he was given, whether he was playing Ben Stiller’s buddy in Along Came Polly to nailing the mannerisms of Truman Capote. A Most Wanted Man holds the morbid honour of being PSH’s last completed film and that made it kind of fascinating to me.

A Most Wanted Man is based on the John Le Carré, novel of the same name. Hoffman plays Günther Bachmann, a German espionage agent tasked with investigating the funding of various terrorist causes. We also follow Chechen refugee Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin) who Bachmann sees as the key to catching the higher-ups in the terrorist cells. Being the philistine that I am, I haven’t read any Le Carré books, but having seen Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I can say it feels familiar. Despite a great supporting cast with the likes of Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright, Willem Dafoe and Daniel Brühl, it’s very much Hoffman’s film. Gunther is a world-weary and broken man, shambling around and smoking cigarettes in such copious amounts it started to make my throat hurt. It’s a great performance. The film makes it very apparent that Bachmann is its anchor and thankfully they had PSH who was more than up for the task. I can’t see many other actors doing nearly as well in the role.

Like most of the classic spy thrillers, the pace of the film shoots for slow and methodical. It has a really heavy atmosphere to it. Slowly ratcheting tension and paranoia breed and I’ve got to respect a film that makes me feel slightly off-kilter throughout its runtime. Key word above is “slow”. A Most Wanted Man is in no rush to do anything. In something like this, I understand that we have to see all the pieces being carefully slid into place to make the inevitable end that much more satisfying, but unfortunately A Most Wanted Man seems to lack a consistent drive to get to the next scene. I’m all for character pieces, but there’s a fine line between bolstering the story with quieter introspective scenes and snowing it under with inert drama. There are no real thrills or lows. Everything just slowly spirals to a guessable conclusion. Part of this is the inherent bleakness of the film’s world view but part of it feels sloppy and indulgent.

I enjoyed A Most Wanted Man. It’s an unapologetically bleak and paranoid film that features a fantastic central Hoffman performance. The film’s slow pace started to grate on me towards the end but it earns enough goodwill to not be a film breaker. Recommended.

[rating=3]
Ben Browne

Genre:Thriller, Spy Distributor:Arrow Films BD/DVD Release Date 19th January 2015(UK) Rating: 15 Director: Anton Corbijn Cast: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Daniel Brühl , Robin Wright, Grigoriy Dobrygin Buy: A Most Wanted Man