A Most Wanted Man - DVD Review

'If Corbijn does manage something here then the film does seem to comment on the globalisation of the anti-terror effort and the fact that it has, in effect, become an extension of American diplomacy.'

There's a level of natural progression for director Anton Corbijn in moving on from the under-rated The American to A Most Wanted Man. Instead of George Clooney as a lonely gunsmith, he graduates to the late Philip Seymour Hoffman as a lonely spy. Rather than the Martin Booth source of his 2010 film, Corbijn takes on a John le Carré novel. The setting moves from the easily-beatified rural Italy to the much-harder-to-photograph Hamburg.

Odd then that A Most Wanted Man should end up as such a backwards step for the director. Where The American had portent by the bucketload, in conversations played out between Clooney and Paolo Bonacelli's priest, here instead protagonist Günther Bachmann (Hoffman) mainly talks about the case he is pursuing, pivoting around suspicious individual (or otherwise) Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin). What that means is that, come the finale (which is not as dramatic, surprising or revealing as the film seems to think it is), there's little pay off to the slow burn of the rest of the film. The fairly natural conclusion emerges, some bits satisfyingly, others less so. There's none of the grander thematic resonance about violent lives that the director managed in The American.

If Corbijn does manage something here then the film does seem to comment on the globalisation of the anti-terror effort and the fact that it has, in effect, become an extension of American diplomacy. Robin Wright skulks effectively in the background as a US attaché-cum-spy, hinting mechanically towards Bachmann about what she plans to do and his past failures which, by the by, have nothing to do with the plot.

The director also shows a level of tone deafness towards the needed scenes of slow burn tension. The finale is perhaps the most effective effort, but several others waver when they need to stand firm. Almost everything involving Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams) is inert, whether it be her interactions with Bachmann or Karpov. Sections involving Willem Dafoe's banker are more effective, but he is underdeveloped and relegated to, at best, third support.

A Most Wanted Man has too many big performers though to write it off as a complete failure, and there are still hints that Corbijn's creative powers are worth watching. Dafoe, Hoffman and Nina Hoss are impressive, even given that the former two have to negotiate slightly clumsy German accents. As a whole, it is a perfectly acceptable Thriller, but given Corbijn's successes with Control and The American, that in itself is something of a disappointment.




A Most Wanted Man is released in the UK on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday January 19th 2015.


By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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