This Blu-ray release knows how to play the game
A Most Wanted Man Film Review
Riding on the shoulders of the late great Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and on the coattails of the superior Tinker Tailor, this spy tale plays the game but doesn’t do enough to distinguish it from its peers.Undoubtedly a loss to the world of cinema, it is undeniably sad tiptoeing through the echoes of Hoffman’s film career as his few remaining unreleased features trickle out. After the seedy and underwhelming God’s Pocket, we now get his penultimate film, with only the second part of Mockingjay – for which he’s only filmed some of his scenes – left. Here he plays a German intelligence officer who finds that a suspected terrorist has just landed in Hamburg and spots an opportunity to catch a much bigger fish, if he can just play his cards right. But with other intelligence agencies all vying for a chance to reel in their own prize, the clock is ticking.Director Anton Corbijn (who delivered a refreshingly cold Clooney in The American) crafts an old fashioned spy thriller from yet another classic Le Carre work, and Hoffman certainly delivers the goods. With meticulous plotting and a well-developed backstory, the film undoubtedly engages, but doesn’t quite go anywhere, instead simmering away with all the right ingredients, in a quiet and unassuming – and equally unspectacular – fashion. Understated is good, but A Most Wanted Man relies on predictability to tell its simple spy tale as almost a standard procedural, seldom keeping you guessing across almost its entire duration. It’s a solid film with strong performances, but it arguably could – and should – have been far more.
Blu-ray Picture QualityA Most Wanted Man’s 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation looks very good indeed, framed in the movie’s original widescreen theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Detail is largely outstanding throughout, with fantastic skin textures, clothing weaves and background observations bringing out the layers and depth to the image in close-ups, mid-range and longer shots, and reflecting the quality afforded by the digital cinematography.
Whilst hard to regard as outright demo material, this is still a largely excellent presentation of the feature film.
The colour scheme has been intentionally skewed towards slightly jaundiced yellowy sequences – as well as a few blue-dominated scenes – but colours remain largely accurate and rich, however much the palette is designed to reflect the drab Hamberg setting, and offer up a more gritty image of the locale. Black levels are strong and well-resolved, with no obvious issues, and defects are largely non-existent, with only a hint of softness preventing this from scoring higher.
Blu-ray Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is just as limited by the material, and thus just as impressive in the way in which it handles it. Although what’s on offer is quite downbeat and low key, it clinically delivers the more nuanced atmospherics available, with fine ambience rendered throughout and the surrounds given plenty to do, even if it’s not always obvious and in-your-face.
Whilst not exactly a bombastic feature, the soundtrack certainly does its best with the material on offer.
With only a few scenes that truly ignite the stage, upping the tension in the process, there’s still enough to remind you of the potency that’s hidden behind the scenes, with the LFE ready and able to deliver the goods when necessary, and the surrounds simply itching to come alive. Needless to say dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout – even if it might take a while to get used to Hoffman’s accent – and certainly gives the frontal array more than enough to keep it occupied throughout the proceedings.
Blu-ray ExtrasNot exactly brimming with extras, the ones on offer are decent but far from substantial. Aside from the requisite previews, we get two lonely featurettes: The Making of A Most Wanted Man, which spends 15 minutes skirting behind the scenes, whilst delivering a few interesting interview snippets; and Spymaster: John le Carre in Hamburg running at 10 minutes and spending some quality time with the famous author himself, who chats around the genre which he’s so famous for, and the setting and ideas for this particular outing. Although there’s nothing great on offer here, it’s superb to at least hear from both the author and the late Hoffman.
A Most Wanted Man Blu-ray VerdictA Most Wanted Man has got all the right ingredients – the great lead actor, the classic novel upon which it is based, the reliable supporting cast, and the solid director – and the end result is a perfectly decent little spy tale which, unfortunately, doesn’t quite do anything to elevate itself from the ranks.
Its old fashioned feel is, in itself, a draw but without Hoffman, there would be little here to grip your attention.
Very good video and audio, and a solid selection of extras – which give us more from both Hoffman and writer Le Carre – make this a must have purchase for fans of the film, and for Le Carre and Hoffman completists alike. Those interested in a decent spy yarn should definitely consider a rental at least.
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