Lauded spy novelist John Le Carre’s “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” made it to the big screen in 2011 and brought veteran actor Gary Oldman’s talent and skill to the forefront once again. Now, with the untimely death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, “A Most Wanted Man” proves the late actor was in top form before his unexpected passing.
A Chechen immigrant, Issa (Grigoriy Dobrygin, “4 Days in May”), turns up battered and bruised in Hamburg and attempts to lay claim to his father’s fortune. World-weary intelligence veteran Gunther Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman, “God’s Pocket”) catches wind of his entrance and suspects him to be the center of an international terror plot.
It’s immensely bizarre to watch Hoffman on-screen: He’s here in top form, subtle and subdued, looking like he wears the world on his shoulders, but he won’t star in another movie again. His death adds a measure of poignancy to both the movie and performance. “A Most Wanted Man” is a fitting send-off for him.
But the movie doesn’t exist solely for Hoffman’s sake. The cast, made up of Nina Hoss (“Barbara”), Willem Dafoe (“Out of the Furnac”) and Robin Wright (“The Congress”), is excellent all around. Each actor brings depth to their characters, enriching the film’s already-rich world.
Like, “Tinker, Tailor,” “A Most Wanted Man” is complex without being convoluted. The pieces fall into place slowly and naturally. Such an unhurried pace would be boring if not aided by director Anton Corbijn’s deft eye. Each scene is as melancholy as the prose they’re translating.
Putting a La Carre novel together on-screen is no easy task, and “A Most Wanted Man” is as effortless as they come. But this is not a “Bourne” or a “Bond” movie. It’s slow and meditative, focusing on how a job like international intelligence can affect already heavy-hearted officers and spies.
And affect them it does. As the story and the characters unravel, it’s hard not to feel anxious for what’s around the next corner. If the viewer is willing to be patient, taking a peek is more than worth it.