★★★★★ |  A Most Wanted Man

In Dutch filmmaker Anton Corbijn’s take on John le Carré’s spy thriller we are very much aware of who ‘the most wanted man’ is, but like Gunther Bachmann, a German Intelligence Officer in Hamburg, we never know why he has earned this title.

Gunther is very much the ‘good man’ in this intricate web of international spy/terrorist catching. Gruff, scruffy, chain-smoking and a fiercely independent operator in charge of a Specialised Terrorist Unit, he is trying to get information from Issa Karpov a half Russian & half-Chechen Muslim illegal immigrant before the police or other authorities can capture and imprison him.

Karpov has escaped from a Russian prison where he was brutally tortured and he is portrayed as being the innocent victim of the fact that his father was a notorious terrorist/criminal. Via a sympathetic lawyer, Karpov leads Gunther to Tommy Brue a wealthy Merchant Banker who is trying to extract himself from his late father’s dubious clients who he has inherited. This includes Karpov Snr. who still has a major nest egg stashed away in the Bank. Gunther wants to use Brue and these illegal millions to trap a respected Professor who he suspects is the head of a cell of terrorists. Although both the German Authorities and the CIA. reluctantly agree to give Gunther time to do things his way, they obviously do not mean it at all.

It’s a well told thrilling intricate story, although a tad confusing at times, and it keeps you completely engaged until the very end. It’s very much Gunther’s story, which is appropriate as the great Philip Seymour Hoffman plays him magnificently in this, his final movie role. I’m unsure if Corbijn actually re-edited the movie as a result of Hoffman’s untimely death which occurred after its Sundance Premiere, but anyway Gunther is rarely off the screen. It’s a powerful swan song from this talented actor and even more poignant because he plays yet another dishevelled character that seems to be such a perfect fit for him in his very distinguished career.

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The cast is made up of Rachel McAdams as the liberal lawyer/social worker, Robin Wright as the cold-hearted double-dealing CIA. Agent, Willem Dafoe as the Banker plagued by the sins of his father, Nina Hoss as the very matter-of-fact loyal assistant to Gunther, and handsome Grigoriy Dobrygin as the hunted man who is forced to decide between his life and his religion when he is made to shave his shaggy beard off.

We came away believing the real possibility that if the Gunthers of this world were actually allowed to use Intelligence as opposed to the usual knee-jerk response of sheer brutality to try and deal with the whole scenario of terrorists, then things may even start to get resolved. And the other totally different thought ingrained in our minds as the final credits rolled, was that the world will never quite be the same after the loss of such a very fine actor.

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A Most Wanted Man opens in the UK on the 12th September 2014

About the author: Roger Walker-Dack
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