Sunday, July 27, 2014

"A Most Wanted Man": John Le Carre's book provides Philip Seymour Hoffman's last performance, with a riveting takedown of a terror plot in Hamburg

A Most Wanted Man”, from Dutch director Anton Corbijn, based on John le Carre’s novel, will seem timely, perhaps ex post facto, in view of Russia’s recent misbehavior as well as the Boston Marathon attacks.  The film starts out, with a widescreen image of a shore dock, with a brief explanation of how Mohammed Atta planed a lot of 9-11 while living in Hamburg, Germany, and how the Germans are determined not to let the city be used this way again. Note the indefinite article in the book title.  

The late Philip Seymour Hoffman, to whom the film is now dedicated, plays a CIA operative Gunter Bachmann, who operates a snoop team to catch terrorists with practices illegal for German police, although Dieter Mohr (Rainer Bock) would have his own methods.  Hoffmann, chain-smoking and pot-bellied, is quite effective in the role, even if breathless.
An illegal Chechen immigrant, Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dpbrygin) shows up, housed by a Muslim woman (Derya Alabora), and is debriefed by a human rights attorney (Rachel McAdams) about what to do with his late father’s “bad money” which he has inherited.  Indeed, inherited wealth, if based on crime, is bad karma) and some people think all inherited wealth is immoral.  Issa decides to turn it over Faisal Abdullah, a Muslim cleric (Homayoun Ershadi) who will turn it over to approved charities.  But  Faisal wants to funnel money to a shipping company that is actually a front for terrorism, and the authorities are onto it.
Issa has been tortured, with his back totally covered with scars.  When he is asked to shave his beard to help with a getaway, he exhibits some sense of physical humiliation.
Helping out behind the scenes is a banker played by Willem Dafoe.  The authorities are tracking every conversation and every computer keystroke, in NSA fashion.  I never though a scene with signing a piece of financial paperwork could generate so much suspense.  But the arrest that follows is bold and shocking, and a double-cross.
I saw this at the AMC Shirlington Sunday, before a rather ample audience.
The official site is here.  The film is a typical Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions collaboration.
I’ve been in Hamburg once, the first night on my first European trip in July 1972. I stayed in a hostel called the Hotel Phoenix.

Wikipedia attribution link for Hamburg picture here

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