Friday, July 25, 2014
A Most Wanted Man
The film's protagonist is the chain-smoking and non-stop drinking Günther Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who is also a brilliant national security agent based in Hamburg. Still haunted by the fact that Hamburg is the place where the terrorists orchestrated the 9/11 attack, Günther and his colleague Erna Frey (Nina Hoss) lead a team to keep Hamburg's Islamic community under closed watch. Their goal is to fish out the terrorist organizations through the connections with a philanthropic academic Dr. Faisal Abdullah (Homayoun Ershadi).
After a 26-year-old Chechen Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin) sneaked in Hamburg illegally, he immediately becomes the focal point on Günther's radar. When a sympathetic immigration lawyer Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams) tries to help Issa to stay, Günther tighten his net on Annabel, as well as a banker Tommy Brue (Willem Dafoe) who is the person Issa is looking for in Hamburg.
Under the pressure from other government agencies, including the Americans represented by a CIA officer Martha Sullivan (Robin Wright), Günther is given 72 hours to close the case.
Despite that we are living in a time that NSA constantly mines gigantic amount of metadata they collect in the name of national security, the espionage techniques in this film are surprisingly old-school as if it were a story in the soviet cold-war era. Obviously, showing off the newest gadgets or high speed car chase (like in many other spy movies) does not interest the director Anton Corbijn. He is more interested in developing his absorbing characters and miraculously arranging the clues for his story. In fact, the film makes you feel that it is overloading suspense moments and intriguing puzzles in the beginning of the film. Luckily, most of the setup falls into places later in the film, and the bet on a character driven approach pays off handsomely.
Once again, Philip Seymour Hoffman exhibited what a great artist he was and his performance reminds us what a tremendous loss his death was. As almost every role he played, he was outstanding in the film and subtly conveyed the complex personality of Günther who is human and smart, but also can be cold and ruthless.
It's a challenge for these characters to be convincing when they hardly speak German in the film. However, the captivating story and engrossing characters leave us little room to fault those details. The mind game takes the center stage of the story from the beginning to the end.
Besides telling an extraordinary spy story, the film also makes a point about war on terrorism. The paranoia, hostility, and distrust toward Muslim community will further harbor hatred and escalate the terrorism activities, but will not diffuse them. While being asked the goal of his operation, with a smirk on his face, Günther quoted a line from CIA officer Martha: "To make the world a safer place." Now take a look at around the world, is it a safer place?