Hoffman’s performance a salvation for Anton Corbijn’s A Most Wanted Man as he leaves his enduring on-screen legacy.
Muslim refugees seeking asylum is nothing out of the ordinary. It’s becoming an everyday occurrence, thanks to the increasing national security threat. But when a part-Russian, part-Chechen, Muslim refugee arrives in Hamburg with a view to claiming his late father’s vast fortune, the ordinary is out. It’s left at the door of his safe-house.
Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the covert spy in Anton Corbijn’s adaption of John Le Carre’s novel; A Most Wanted Man. As intelligence are alerted, Hoffman battles corruption, morality and bureaucracy in an attempt to fulfil his sardonic mission to “make the world a better place.”
Rachael McAdam’s role is played with conviction. She is the young, ambitious lawyer tasked with processing Issa Karpov’s asylum application as well as a social worker, bodyguard and provider. Hoffman however, is the protagonist. He is also a raving alcoholic, chain-smoking, obsessive-compulsive intelligence officer racing against time to restore justice as well as his own professional reputation. Perhaps a little too convincingly.
Given that this was Hoffman’s last role before his tragic overdose, it’s fitting that his character, Gunther Bachmann appears jaded and exhausted. Either it is a reflection of the persona of a spy master or Hoffman was himself exhausted and despondent. The latter rings true.
Whilst the pretence of the film makes for gripping viewing on paper, on screen it’s an entirely different story. Perhaps it was the intention of Corbijn to portray the mundane tedium that is the everyday life of an intelligence spy. As Hoffman waits for his subject’s deal to be done, the viewer waits for the story to gather pace. Seemingly, both in vain. As late night coffee, whiskey and cigarette consumption dominate scene after scene, the viewer could be forgiven for employing said vices to carry them through to the end of the movie.
Finally the plot gathers pace. Albeit, in the final scene and last fifteen minutes of the film.
Hoffman’s performance however, must be commended and arguably compensates for the film’s disappointing dynamic. He is the overworked, overweight, cynical type that a spy should be. As spy thrillers go A Most Wanted Man draws a stark resemblance to John le Carre’s earlier novel; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. It is a should-be gripping depiction of a collective battle for justice but lacks the follow-through of an engaging spy thriller with Hoffman’s character bearing an unnerving resemblance to his own fragile state of mind.