Philip Seymour Hoffman Shines One Last Time in ‘A Most Wanted Man’: A Review
In what is likely to be his last “starring” role (The Hunger Games sequels aside), A Most Wanted Man centers around the talents of fallen acting legend Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman plays Gunter Bachmann, a CIA operative in Germany who has been tracking the flow of shipments in and out of ports there. With his team in tow, targets are tracked up the food chain before moving in to secure an arrest. This leads to potential power struggles with other officials who have differing motives – personal or public gain, mistrust, etc. all being possibilities.
Gunter tracks a tortured Muslim with a checkered past entering Germany who seeks asylum. The man takes up residence with a group that helps him, including “social worker for known terrorists” Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams). The man wants his dead and estranged fathers money, which is held at a bank run by Tommy Brue (Willem Defoe) and thus an intricate plot unspools as the CIA attempts to determine what this man will use the money for. American officials, represented by Martha Sullivan (Robin Wright) come into play and eventually a deal is put in place to being a resolution to the proceedings.
Director Anton Corbijn (The American) shoots attractive locations mixed with unfriendly confines loaded with potential problems lurking around every corner. The source material is John LeCarre’s novel, and while the film can only develop so many characters, what does unravel in the spy film is a bit cold and calculating (not unlike Clooney’s film), rather than the thrilling kind (like say, the Bourne films). The film is interesting but not ultimately overly satisfying in and of itself, especially considering the possibility of seeing Hoffman in one of his last roles.
Seeing the film is an opportunity to pay respect to a sterling actor, but his role, while of course delivered in expert manner, lacks the flair with which one might hope to see him go out on a higher note. Perhaps it’s all appropriate in the end, as the character actor who won an Oscar and became a star, was always meant to be a talent utilized to serve the story, rather than to sit above the fray. A Most Wanted Man references the target in the film, but for audiences, it will be the chance to experience Hoffman on a big screen one last time. That in the end will have to suffice.