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REVIEW: A Most Wanted Man

It’s a mostly low-key performance by the late  Philip Seymour Hoffman  in a starring role as a German  old school spy  , based on the 2008 book by  50-year spy-master John Le Carre’. Poignantly,  the Oscar-winning Hoffman gives one of  his  finest  performances in this, his  last finished  film.  It’s a haunting   performance, echoing his last days , but the excesses here are work and booze. 

At the heart  of the story is a  tortured half- Chechen, half-Russian  who slips into Hamburg to claim his late dad’s fortune.  Is he an oppressed victim or a dangerous terrorist?   Le Carre keeps us guessing  til the end. Like Le Carre’s other films, this is the thinking person’s spy movie,  with  almost no action til the final, explosive, heartbreaking  climax . By the way, look for the author in a blink-and-you’ll-miss it barroom scene.

While the pacing of the 2-hour film may be slow for some, Hoffman’s performance is spellbinding. He totally embodies the German spy at war with other spy agencies.  A distractingly black-haired  Robin Wright plays a CIA agent.  Like Hoffman, Rachel McAdams masters a German accent as a naïve lawyer fighting for asylum for the Chechen-Russian (who is played by A Russian actor who does  it all with his eyes). Willem Dafoe, for once not the bad dude,  is the German  banker who has to decide if the i.d.-less young man  can truly claim the massive inheritance.

This  post- 911 spy  thriller is totally believable , raising important prescient questions.  It’s a smart, gritty, tense and ultimately emotional  film.   It’s one of my favorites of the year.

4 stars


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