Playing the game
Riding on the broad shoulder of the late great Phillip Seymour Hoffman and 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 last few echoes of Hoffman’s film career as his 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 John 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.
Its old fashioned feel is, in itself, a draw, but without Hoffman, there would be little here to grip your attention.
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.
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