A Most Wanted Man Features Stellar Cast

Clark Sacktor, Columnist

A Most Wanted Man, which aired briefly at the Apollo Theatre this past week, has a surprisingly straightforward plot for a thriller. Directed by Anton Corbijn, the film is an adaptation of the eponymous book by John le Carré, author of The Constant Gardener and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Corbijn, who directed The American, another restrained spy thriller, makes use of what appears to be a hand-held camera to convey the paranoia seeping through the two-hour runtime. Corbijn does not rely on fancy camerawork, but instead adopts a minimalist approach, using various degrees of close-ups to place a focus on the actors’ individual performances.

The movie is concerned with the international workings of spy organizations competing in a bureaucracy to claim legitimacy over the management of terrorist threats. Set in Germany, the film begins with the image of Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin), a Chechen Muslim refugee who is under the eye of Günther Bachmann (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and his team of spies who believe Karpov to be a terrorist. Meanwhile, a well-respected professor named Abdullah (Homayoun Ershadi) also remains under Bachmann’s surveillance, as he is believed to be likewise tied to a terrorist organization.

The late Hoffman’s performance as a pragmatic, scowling, worn-out, functionally alcoholic spy is unsurprisingly remarkable. Besides the final two upcoming Hunger Games movies, his performance as Günther Bachmann is his last in any motion picture. Hoffman was arguably the finest actor of his generation, and his skill set is on full display in A Most Wanted Man. His effortless portrayal of a battered man determined to apprehend “the bad guys,” no matter the consequences, is not grandiose but modest. Hoffman, who died tragically before his time, will be sorely missed on screen; if there is any justice in the world (though the film suggests otherwise) he will be viewed on the same level as Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson.

While Hoffman’s is the standout performance of the film, the performances of the other actors elevate the film beyond a one-man show. Willem Dafoe progresses impressively from rigid businessman to a man deeply affected by both the consequences of his actions and those around him. Excluding her German accent, Rachel McAdams, who plays Annabel Richter, excellently embodies an idealistic lawyer forced to make hard decisions and to face the reality of a world where powerful people are apathetic toward her beliefs. Grigori Dobrygin, a promising newcomer to the big screen, plays a mentally grim, physically tortured suspect. His character starts out quietly but later develops into a touchingly flawed victim and perpetrator who assists in propelling the movie forward.

The film is never plot-based, and even with a strong supporting cast, the movie becomes stagnant in Hoffman’s absence. Sadly, since his passing, the global audience will be forever awaiting Hoffman’s return.