Sunday, August 17, 2014

Movie Review: "A Most Wanted Man" (2014)

Movie"A Most Wanted Man"
Director: Anton Corbijn
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 1 minute
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Gunther Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is head of a small band of German spies stationed in Hamburg whose primary purpose is to combat the war on terror. Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin) is a half Russian. half Chechnyan Muslim extremist who has entered the city illegally and has sought the help of civil rights attorney Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams). He hopes to gain asylum and assistance in the retrieval of a large inheritance from his father, who gained it through less than honorable measures. Gunther and his team play a manipulative game of cat-and-mouse as they allow Issa to walk freely in the hopes that he will lead them to a bigger target.

Who knew signing a legal document could be so intense?!

It is such a great shame that Philip Seymour Hoffman passed away earlier this year because he was one of the greats of our time. He had so many excellent and memorable roles throughout his career, and his performance in this film is no exception. He does a spectacularly brilliant job as Gunther. Without Hoffman, we don't think this film would have been as great as it was. Gunther is a persistent, intelligent, and calculated man who is not afraid to take a risk in order to stop international terrorism. Hoffman is not your typical Hollywood spy that you'd see in a Bourne type of film, and definitely isn't the first actor you'd think of when thinking about a terrorist hunter. As Gunther, he and his team remain in the shadows, making contacts when they can, and that is why Philip Seymour Hoffman works so well in this film. His character's ability to convince others what to do, his glances, his staunch and somehow menacingly haunted and often times desperate face, even every word Hoffman utters is almost musical, his deep, husky voice meshing so well with his "put on" German accent, and convincingly so. He doesn't need to be front and center in the action, he can remain "hidden," so to speak, and still do his job efficiently. Maybe it was because I was hanging on his every word, knowing they would be some of his last, and sure, the other actors put on fine performances, but it's really Hoffman who drives this film to its realized greatness. This is his last completed film besides his part as Plutarch Heavensbee in "The Hunger Games" series, and he definitely went out with a bang. It could have very well been part of his character, but in separating the man himself from that character, I did think he looked a little different than he had in the past, more flustered and more jittery. It's purely speculation on our part, but something seemed almost off with him as a person. As we now know, he had his demons and had his battles, but that doesn't diminish him any less as an actor or as a person.

The film as a whole is not an action-packed thriller, but more of an "on the edge of your seat," slow burning, cerebral and dramatic type of thriller. Because of this, many will be underwhelmed and think that it's nothing they haven't seen before. The pacing might also be viewed as slow by some, but some scenes are seemingly elongated on purpose, and we got the sense that this was done to give audiences a feel for what it would be like to be part of the cat-and-mouse game that terrorism so often is. As for the other actors in this film, Rachel McAdams did an overall good job in her role as liberal lawyer Annabel, though we did notice she lost her German accent from time to time. It's always nice to see her venture outside of the rom/dram/com box she was seemingly put into many years ago. Willem Dafoe has the perfect face for a shady banker and did a great job in this movie as well. His accent was just as convincing as Hoffman's. Robin Wright seems to have found her niche screwing up people's lives with her manipulative bitchiness and this movie is no exception. Altogether, these four actors, with the help of others, created an unconventionally smart spy movie.

It is going to be difficult moving forward from here knowing Hoffman won't be around to grace us with his presence on the big screen any longer. In fact, when the film was over, I cried a couple of tears of sadness, not just for knowing he was gone, but for knowing his final performance was one of his best. This movie is not one to miss.

My Rating: 8.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 90%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!
One year ago, we were watching: "Planes"

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