A Most Wanted Man Review: The Anti-Spy Spy Thriller

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I’m going to get one thing out of the way. Philip Seymour Hoffman is phenomenal in this movie. This being his final leading role in a film after his tragic passing earlier this year, it has to be said that he was certainly among the best actors of our time.

While his performance in A Most Wanted Man is strong, it isn’t nearly as career defining as say Capote or, my personal favorite role of his, Almost Famous. He’s great, but to review this film properly, the tragedy does need to be put aside simply because this is not an acting heavy movie. Had the late actor given a poor performance, the film wouldn’t suffer all that much.

That’s because A Most Wanted Man is a complicated espionage thriller that hardly relies on character and more so on the politics of the post 9/11 spy network, none of which is dumbed down for us. But that’s part of the majesty of the film, if you can follow what’s going on, the ending kicks you in the head in the best way possible.

Taking place entirely in Hamburg, Germany, where 9/11 was planned, the film follows Gunter Bachmann (Hoffman) as he tracks a former prisoner of Russia trying to gain asylum in Germany, as well as his due inheritance. This man is helped by Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams), who hopes to prove his innocence. But when Al-Queda might be involved, Martha Sullivan (Robin Wright) enters the picture to oversee how German intelligence handles the situation.

Many of the best and most important scenes in the film feature Bachmann and Martha discussing the place of espionage in the current world. Hoffman and Wright play off each other perfectly, all leading to a third act that makes you question every word they said to each other.

That said, the film is incredibly slow to start. All the moving pieces really don’t come together until the final scene, which is frustrating at times but ultimately very rewarding. Still though, A Most Wanted Man is not intended for the impatient viewer. But if you like spy movies and are willing to wait, this is definitely one of the smartest and most engaging indies of the summer. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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