Trust Is A Word In A Dictionary
 A Most Wanted Man
Stars: (the late) Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright, Willem Dafoe, Grigoriy Dobrygin, Derya Alabora, Daniel Bruhl, Nina Hoss, Homayoun Ershadi, Mehdi Dehbi and Herbert Gronemeyer
Director: Anton Corbijn
Scriptwriter: Andrew Bovell from the novel by John Le Carre
Composer: Herbert Gronemeyer
Cinematography: Benolt Delhomme
Rating: R
Running Length: 120 minutes
Sometimes John le Carre’s novels translate to the screen and sometimes they don't. This time, Andrew Bovell’s screenplay works like a poker game when the phrase “all the cards on the table,” doesn't mean in any particular order and the stakes just keep getting higher.  Philip Seymour Hoffman, plays a German agent (accent and all) who looks like a worn-out carpet with rough edges. He smokes too much, drinks too much and has no social life. “A Most Wanted Man” is Hoffman’s last film in which he has the major role. After this film, you will miss him even more, and though it is a long, long shot, perhaps Oscar nomination will remember him.
The film is set in Hamburg, and begins with a bedraggled young man coming out of the river and heading for shelter. This is Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin), part Chechen-part Russian, heir to a fabulous fortune from his late father. He finds shelter with a Muslim family who get him a civil rights attorney, Annabel (Rachel McAdams). While she is trying to get him papers, we see that government agents are watching Issa. Gunther (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his crew are doing surveillance in secret. They suspect he is a terrorist who is trying to funnel money into terrorist hands. Several aspects go on at the same time: Annabel getting Issa into safe and secret quarters, Annabel trying to get the money for Issa, Gunther discovering the British and American CIA ( you will recognize Robin Wright by her cheek bones) are interested in Issa and no one wants to join forces. It is every government for itself. At the conference table, faces don't reveal anything and words are window dressing for the real objectives. Trust is just a word in a dictionary. The group gives Gunther and his team 72 hours to trap Issa, and they enlist the help of a banker, Tommy (Willem Dafoe). It turns out that Issa is not the prey, a Muslim leader, Dr. Abdullah (Homayoun Ershadi) is the target. The poker game continues with the cards being dealt one-by-one.
Hoffman, at the beginning of “A Most Wanted Man,”  is reminded of his life style and says, “Maybe the Son of God will come to save me.” What a poignant statement. His depiction of Gunther, is that of a world-weary man, trying to keep the enemy at bay with the least amount of notice possible. His team works together well and no one seems to have a life outside of work. Rachel McAdams, who at times is supposed to be under the radar but never hides her long, blonde hair, is a stoic lawyer and for the underdog. Grigoriy Dobrygin as Issa, a Muslim, barely speaks above a whisper and acts like a man who needs permission to do anything, having been previously tortured. Willem Dafoe as Tommy, the banker, offers a bit of levity and his facial expressions are pages of dialogue. Robin Wright, with short black hair and no make-up, is the CIA operative and all business.  I was surprised to see that the film’s composer, Herbert Gronemeyer is also an actor in the movie.  Gronemeyer was the composer for George Clooney's film, "The American," which was also directed by "A Most Wanted Man's" director, Anton Corbijn.
“A Most Wanted Man” gives us the sea coast coldness of Hamburg. No sunshine here. The business of espionage runs the gambit from watching television screens in vans for days and days, to action within moments and decisions within seconds. No one’s face gives anything away until the action begins so the audience has to be on its toes. Director Anton Corbijn knows just where to place the camera for maximum effect and the audience is there with the actors. Gronemeyer's soundtrack, along with a lone piano melody played by Hoffman, is appropriate for the scenes without being obstructive. The idea of this lone melody lets you know just how out on a limb Hoffman's character is at that moment.  Makes you steer clear of large, black SUV’s with tinted windows.
Copyright 2014 Marie Asner
For another Philip Seymour Hoffman film review, see the following:
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