– by David Morgan-Brown
I, and many others, are relishing the few films to come out that feature the last of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performances, an actor who barely ever disappointed in his roles, was dynamic, and gave us some of the most memorable performances for some of the most memorable characters of the past two decades. So it’s unfortunate that one of these films that feature a posthumous role by him turns out to be a disappointing, unmemorable, and unremarkable political thriller, despite Philip doing his best yet again. A Most Wanted Man, based on the post-9/11 novel of the same name by John le Carré, aims to be a smart and story-driven political film with very little action (even for a modern day thriller), yet its most exciting and tense scenes (action or not) are derivative of superior films within the same genre.
The film is brimming with the minute detail of this story, yet leaves no room for any engagement on the audience’s part. The interweaving of plot and theme seems easy enough to grasp and gives off the feeling the film doesn’t have a depth of any resonating or persevering interest. The characterisation (namely of Rachel McAdams’ sympathetic lawyer Annabel Richter and Grigoriy Dobrygin’s immigrant Karpov who is at the centre of the story) is very slight, but when it does go into places, it feels like the obvious route and doesn’t quite stimulate many interesting questions or notions about the morality and politics of the situation. This particular flatness is evident throughout the film from beginning to end, where a case of anti-Americanism in the crucial plot twist just shy of the film’s conclusion is hilarious given that this is a production with mostly American actors playing Germans speaking English in German accents (which seems like a very American thing to do).
There’s nothing here particularly of bad quality – the acting from all is impressive, the direction is tight and unfussy, and the cinematography does the best job at absorbing the audience. Unfortunately, it is the script from Australian Andrew Bovell (who penned Lantana) that plays out straight like a dramatisation without any drama. This ultimately means that A Most Wanted Man has little to offer to people not looking for specifically what this film is about.