The nature of international intelligence has changed in the last decade since 9/11. Their are many who claim that the West is currently embroiled in a "clash of civilizations" with that of the Muslim world in the Middle East. Terrorism has grown and networked in this time, and the "clash" has become more cloak and dagger as more overt wars like the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq come to a close. Anton Corbijn's A Most Wanted Man opts to show the "War on Terror" as it is, and not how he or the source material's author John le Carre, would like it to be. This makes for a thrilling, engrossing and reality-bound thriller that twists slightly and hits you hard at the very end.
Gunther Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman) runs a small team of spies (Nina Hoss, Daniel Bruhl, Kostja Ullmann) for German intelligence out of Hamburg. Their mission, to collect intimate information to identify and thwart terrorist activity within Hamburg's Muslim community. Interest is piqued when Issa Karpov (Grigory Dobrygin) finds his way into the country from Chechnya, he is beaten and on a mission of his own. He is identified as a possible terorrist threat, and Bachmann's team gets to work, hoping they can connect him with a Muslim business leader who, while on the outside seems favorable with the West, may be harboring ties with extremists. A human rights attorney (Rachel McAdams) and a English banker (Willem DeFoe) are also brought into the fray as patience is stretched, beliefs are tested, and everyone involved tries to ascertain the others motives...
Corbijn's directions starts out as shaky, and he uses the movie's score a bit too heavy-handedly in the first act, but he settles down and lets the movie speak for itself with the help of his performers and set pieces. The script is also slightly flawed, but not by much, it could have spent some more time with the character of Dr. Abdullah, as he is the "barracuda" that Bachmann hopes to catch using Issa as the "minnow". All this aside, the script is thrilling, has crisp dialogue , and has so many subtle twists and turns that it is nothing short of a fine piece.
The acting is what truly stands out in this picture, especially the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, who should get a posthumous nomination for Best Actor at the Academy Awards for this role. He shows a man of deep flaws, possibly life imitating art, who might drink and smoke a little too much and be too focused on his work, but is still committed to doing his job the right way, as well as doing it as humanely as possible. Grigory Dobrygin also deserves praise for his portrayal of Issa, a broken man who truly does not know what he wants, he goes from MacGuffin-like stock character to a fully fleshed out human being before our very eyes, that takes talent. The actresses bring their A Game as well, especially Rachel McAdams and Robin Wright, who show two sides of this deceptive game, the puppet and a puppeteer. McAdams' accent is a little flimsy, but that's a nitpick towards what was a complete, soulful, fantastic performance. She derserves to be considered for an Oscar herself, she's just that good.
Overall, A Most Wanted Man is a taut, enthralling, timely thriller with a well developed script full of great, multi-dimensional characters who are in turn played by actors who commit fully to these roles and make us involved with them. See this movie, it is definitely, beyond a doubt one of the best movies of 2014.
A Most Wanted Man is showing in theaters nationwide.