Let me just say up front — this is not a review. It is a recommendation.
Just a few years ago if you’d said about a movie you’d just seen that it was as good as the best thing currently on television, people would have assumed you were damning the film with faint praise. How things have changed. You can hardly read or hear anything about the entertainment industry these days without someone commenting on the new Golden Age of television. A-list movie stars headline shows on cable and streaming services while feature film writers and directors declare that getting a series picked up is the new (preferred) version of a 3 picture deal. Critics, pundits and your co-workers all seem to agree that the new breed of television series is doing what quality film used to do. Well, run to your local cinema while you still can – because A MOST WANTED MAN is as good as any Netflix original series you’re going to binge on tonight.
Based on the John le Carre spy novel of the same name and set in current day Hamburg, A MOST WANTED MAN provides counter-programming to the summer studio tentpoles in the forms of street-level settings, unvarnished characters, and complex perspectives. It’s a spy movie with a POV we’re not used to seeing. The film is intimate and unsettling. It is serious filmmaking that is seriously entertaining. MAN has the kind of slow-boil-plot with a gobsmack payoff that we’ve come to expect from a ten-episode arc on a hot, new HBO series. And it’s all done in a just a hair over two hours.
Much has already been speculated about the hard-not-to-notice parallels between the beleaguered and brilliant lead character in this movie and the actor who plays him. This is Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final lead role. (He will appear in a supporting role in the upcoming HUNGER GAMES sequel.) Hoffman’s performance here doesn’t lead me to wonder about his personal life as much as it reminds me how masterfully he inhabited his characters. Whether you call Hoffman’s GUNTHER BACHMANN an antihero, a conflicted hero or a complex hero — he is a man of vision and action who is increasingly out-of-step with the people who hold the real keys to power. He’s running out of time and options. If you appreciated the work Hoffman did before this, then A MOST WANTED MAN is a must-see film.
A MOST WANTED MAN (R) (122 mins); Anton Corbijn (dir); Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, Robin Wright