A Most Wanted Man is a movie that asks two questions: 1. In the spy game, can you trust anybody? And 2. Will Philip Seymour Hoffman win a posthumous Oscar? (Answers are “no” and “maybe.”)
Günther Bachman (Hoffman) is a chain-smoking German espionage schlub working on a plan to expose—and halt—an operation that’s transferring money from to terrorist organizations. A new arrival in Hamburg from Chechnya is central to Heinrich’s scheme. Gunther is working angles with a variety of players, managing to manipulate certain activities but needing cooperation to make other pieces fall into place.
Martha (Robin Wright—with black hair!) is an American spy whose motives are parallel to those of Gunther’s. Annabel (Rachel McAdams) is a lawyer who helps conceal Issa (Grigoriy Dobrygin) from authorities who would deport him back to Chechnya before he can get his hands on a large sum of money. Tommy (Willem Dafoe) is the banker whose efforts are vital to Gunter’s plan.
Hoffman’s acting skills are top notch as usual but this is not the kind of role that screams for an Oscar nomination. However, his untimely passing coupled with the admiration of his talent by the movie community, could lead to year-end honors. Some online commenters have called PSH’s German accent into question, but Sally Field and Tom Hanks won Oscars with unauthentic Southern accents, so that issue should be moot.
A Most Wanted Man has a story that requires strict attention to the cast of characters and their respective needs and wants. No running out for more popcorn during this film—too much going on. A Most Wanted Man is not a likely crowd-pleaser. But if you enjoy a dark, heavy spy film, and/or you are a fan of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s acting, don’t miss it.