Review: A Most Wanted Man

Hoffman goes out on a high


When Philip Seymour Hoffman died in February, American cinema lost its everyman. Running the gamut from perceptive privileged preppie (The Talented Mr Ripley) to cranky CIA agent (Charlie Wilson's War), Hoffman's talent was to make acting look easy, whether he was playing the fat loser friend or an Oscar-winning Truman Capote. A reluctant interviewee, I chatted to him once at a New York party and quickly realised he was more about the show than the tell. It is evident in every performance including this, his last one, as the German intelligence officer, Gunther Bachmann.

Throughout the film - an espionage thriller based on a novel by John le Carré - there is the inescapable feeling of loss as Hoffman is faultless in the role. He is weighed down by the drudgery of running a counter-terrorism operation in Hamburg which has none of the glamour and whizz of a Jason Bourne conspiracy.

I know I am in the minority when I say that the diligence and detail of le Carre's spy stories leave me cold and I would happily have exited midway through Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as I thought it was a yawn, despite Gary Oldman's Oscar-winning star turn.

Those who loved it will certainly appreciate A Most Wanted Man, which I enjoyed more, mainly because of Hoffman, but also because the plot has more bite.

In short, it's about an escaped Turkish prisoner with ties to a militant jihadist group who arrives in Germany to secure a vast inheritance. German intelligence wants to arrest him and he needs a human rights lawyer (Rachel McAdams) to negotiate on his behalf.

But the stoic Bachmann, who has learnt to play the long game, believes Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin) will lead them to the source - Abdullah (Homayoun Ershadi), a millionaire Muslim academic whose philanthropy could be a cover for funding terrorism. And so with a nod from a CIA agent (Robin Wright), Bachmann gets 72 hours to catch his prey.

Willem Dafoe is on board as the head of the bank responsible for the inheritance and director Anton Corbijn copes nicely with the weighty content. But it is Hoffman's film and you will leave knowing cinema is a poorer place without him.

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