A Most Wanted Man will fall into the thriller genre, but that’s a vague term – “thriller”. It certainly won’t get anybody’s pulse racing, but that is not exactly a bad thing. It is instead a slow burning, deep and clever sort of thriller designed to engage your mind rather than get the adrenaline pumping.
As the head of a top secret German anti-terrorism group, Gunther Bachman (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is tracking a suspected terrorist (Grigoriy Dobrygin) who has just arrived in Hamburg after spending years in Turkish and Russian jails. Naturally, he wants to know why he’s chosen Hamburg as his sanctuary and his questions lead him to prestigious bank owner Tommy Brue (Willem Dafoe) and in turn the flow of money for al-Qaeda.
One would imagine that being set against the backdrop of one of the world’s most picturesque cities would produce some brilliant, inspiring cinematography, but not so. The film is by no means an ugly piece of work, but it is ugly in a beautiful sort of way. They haven’t gone around showcasing Hamburg, yelling “LOOK WHERE THIS FILM IS SET” at the top of their voice, but delve into the dark and gritty side of the city that could in all honesty be almost any city in Europe. This works in the favour of the film, which as mentioned is not a pretty one, but very tough and very sombre.
Hoffman, as you would predict, is flawless and gives a stellar performance that reminds us just how big a talent we tragically lost this year. He compliments the deep, layered tones of the film with an equally deep and layered show, and has a spectacular closing few minutes. You get the feeling that there was a lot more (a LOT more) to Gunther Bachman that we didn’t get to see, and I personally could have watched him for hours more. He was imposing and intimidating, and kept all this just below the surface, treating us only to tantalising glimpses every so often.
This is not a film for fans of guns, explosions and car chases, but it is certainly a film for fans of intelligent, thoughtful plots. Do not go expecting a rival to James Bond, but expect to watch an intricate plot unfold and be told by some of the finest names in acting.