In theory the combination of a John le Carre property-based script (whose books are almost always overly plotted, sometimes to an effective degree) and the direction of Anton Corbijn (whose previous effort, The American, was a beautiful film to look at but was brought down by a numbingly simple plot) should make a great film as the weaknesses of both are canceled out by the strengths of the other. A Most Wanted Man makes a pretty solid case for this theory being true. A Most Wanted Man is a slow-burning thriller done well as it has an interesting plot and fantastic performances from an all-star cast.
A Most Wanted Man takes places in Hamburg, Germany where Gunther Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman) leads a secret anti-terrorism group. With the government already putting pressure on him to get to the bottom of a possible terrorism connection with a local religious leader (Homayoun Ershadi), he is suddenly forced to get to a quick resolution when a Chechen with a dark past (Grigoriy Dobrygin) crosses through the German border. Anton Corbijn directs from a script by Andrew Bovell (the writer behind the little seen Mel Gibson film, Edge of Darkness).
This is a really well done film with the only problems with it being from the source material rather than the film itself. A Most Wanted Man has a message to get across and it does so rather bluntly. Fortunately, the film doesn’t force the message to the viewer until the very end. Beyond this, though, Corbijn and company make this film as good as it can possibly be. The pacing is slow but still intense. The visuals and cinematography are quite stunning. The imagery is very subtle but still finds a way to be picturesque.
The thing that really makes this film click though is the performance from the cast. Philip Seymour Hoffman delivers a performance that reminds you just how much of an acting giant we lost earlier this year. It is a subtle performance from Hoffman but he nails the accent and brings a presence with him that is absolutely necessary yet difficult to pull off. Rachel McAdams is the scene-stealer of the film, though, as she delivers the performance of her career. As an attorney for immigrants to the country McAdams’ character has a lot to lose and her performance makes you completely aware with that. She also makes it look easy holding her own against the rest of this all-star cast. The other highlights are Willem Dafoe (as a nervous banker), Grigoriy Dobrygin (making it look easy despite being inexperienced as an actor) and Robin Wright (who is able to deliver a memorable character without much screen time).
A Most Wanted Man is a solid thriller that is allowed to rise above your typical film from the genre thanks to its cast.