Friday, July 25, 2014

A Most Wanted Man Movie Review

Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in A Most Wanted Man

Hoffman Shines in Stylish, Thrill-Less Thriller

It's hard to get too excited over a thriller, that's light on thrills; but one can't understate the genius that is/sadly was Philip Seymour Hoffman. The 2005 Oscar-winner (Capote) dazzles with low-key precision in Anton Corbijn's A Most Wanted Man, a well-shot exercise in style over substance.

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: When a half-Chechen, half-Russian, brutally tortured immigrant turns up in Hamburg's Islamic community, laying claim to his father's ill-gotten fortune, both German and US security agencies take a close interest: as the clock ticks down and the stakes rise, the race is on to establish this most wanted man's true identity - oppressed victim or destruction-bent extremist?

What’s Best: It's tragic to think this is Hoffman's last starring role, but it is. Whether he's impatiently breathing, lighting up a cigarette or breaking up bar fights, Hoffman is nothing short of mesmerizing. His German accent takes some getting used to (it's actually dead on) and this performance only solidifies what I already knew going in... Hoffman was one of the 10 best actors alive, before his senseless passing earlier this year. He will be sorely missed.

I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge a number of other strong, individual performances... Willem Dafoe, Homayoun Ershadi, Nina Hoss, Rachel McAdams and Robin Wright are quite impressive in their respective roles. For whatever reason, they just don't seem to come together as effectively.

To its' credit, A Most Wanted Man has the look and feel of an old European thriller. Perhaps I'm just used to a quicker pace nowadays. At any rate, it's scrumptious to look at (for the most part.) Kudos to cinematographer Benoît Delhomme.

What’s Not: After taking off like a rocket in the first hour, the second half grinds to a comparative halt once lawyer Annabel (McAdams) puts Unabomber-lookalike Issa into hiding. This guy wants €10 million, but has no ID, no passport... just a key and a letter. I get asked for more, when writing a check out for groceries.

Even worse, the audience is kept in the dark regarding what's really at stake. It's hard to have any sympathy for Issa; yet alone the Muslim philanthropist, who may or may not be shifting funds to terrorists. Arrest them both. Kill them both. Who cares?

Best Line: Günther (Hoffman) has been around the block a few (thousand) times, and knows when something is amiss. After meeting CIA agent Martha Sullivan (Wright) he casually remarks, 'I've been observed by Americans before: It usually doesn't end well.' I also liked Günther's 10-second lesson on spy pens to crooked banker Tommy Brue (Dafoe) - 'Looks like a pen. Writes like a pen. Listens like a pen.'

Overall: A Most Wanted Man desperately needs some sort of pivotal event to lead up to. There is one, but I don't feel it's movie ending worthy. What we're left with is an array of excellent individual performances that (when put together) fall short of a true thriller. Worth watching for the first hour, and Hoffman's every move.