Classy spy thriller is a slow-burner, says Matt Adcock

With Islamic militants all over the current news agenda, it seems timely to check Anton Corbijn’s new film, A Most Wanted Man, writes Matt Adcock.

Monday, 15th September 2014, 9:57 am
Philip Seymour Hoffman in A Most Wanted Man

He brings master crime writer John le Carré’s novel to the big screen in an intense spy thriller about half-Chechen, half-Russian Muslim immigrant Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin) who is being tracked as a possible threat by a shadowy anti-terrorist unit headed by Günther Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

Karpov travels to Hamburg and finds out that he is due a massive inheritance left to him by his mafia-connected father. But this potential source of funds, which might fall into terrorist hands, alerts both the German and US security agencies and so a nerve shredding cat and mouse game ensues.

A Most Wanted Man is a classy film blessed with an incredible cast that includes not only the late Hoffman, but also Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe and Robin Wright. All are on good form and this is a fitting send-off for Hoffman, who looks genuinely stressed and ill throughout – which is exactly as you’d imagine his character to be.

At the heart of the film is also Dr Abdullah (Homayoun Ershadi) who is believed by Bachmann to be funnelling funds to terrorist activities, though he has up until now been unable to prove this.

The plot is a meticulous knife-edge of tension and director Corbijn keeps you guessing as the pieces of the puzzle slowly fall into place. I say ‘slowly’ because this is a creeping, leisurely paced piece of film-making that does not have any real action scenes and rather relies on subtly building up the aura of suspense.

I found it refreshing to have an unapologetically ‘thinking’ movie for a change, but it is worth knowing what you’re going to see.

If hankering for a thriller with action like a Bourne or Mission Impossible you should look elsewhere, A Most Wanted Man is a viewing experience where you need to pay close attention throughout, as even smallest details come together to influence the outcome. If you enjoyed other le Carré-based films such as Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy or The Constant Gardener, then you’ll be right at home here.