Swan songs are so often bittersweet. A Most Wanted Man reminded me (not that I really needed the nudge) what an astounding actor Philip Seymour Hoffman is: was. This was his last film, not counting some work he put in on the next Hunger Games movie, and, along with the penultimate God’s Pocket, which The Video Station also has available, serves as a brilliant eulogy for a brilliant actor.
Spy novelist John le Carré wrote A Most Wanted Man in 2008, well after the Cold War, which is the setting for most of his books, including Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. But the cerebral, troubled spy is still at the core, and Hoffman must have loved sinking his teeth into its world of bureaucratic pettiness and paranoia, and spies who never say what they mean. What stays with me most about Hoffman’s performance is that not only does he have a German accent (since his character, Gunther Bachmann, is an agent for German internal security), but that, in his Stanislavskian genius, he has created something beyond an accent, more exalted, rarefied, gleaming.
Le Carré knows well that nowadays any topical spy novel needs the best topical subject, Islam. So, the plot of A Most Wanted Man revolves around a young Chechen Islamic man who washes up, literally, in Hamburg. He quickly becomes the center of attention for both various (and nefarious) security agencies, among them the C.I.A., and also a young immigration lawyer (Rachel McAdams). And that C.I.A. presence is played by none other than Robin Wright, in full House of Cards mode, i.e., a cold slab of solipsism. If you know Tinker Tailor, you know what to expect, and it’s here in spades: a twisting, winding, sometimes nearly impenetrable plot, here ending in an existential howl, always entirely compelling, in the sorely missed hands of the great Philip Seymour Hoffman. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 11/5/14