In theory, a film like A Most Wanted Man, should be all but destined for greatness. When it comes to stunning visuals, Anton Corbijn is in a league of his own, and a similar statement could be made about the work of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, while it goes without saying that John le Carré’s novels translate so perfectly on film. Unfortunately, some combinations just aren’t meant to be, and herein lies a prime example of that.
Hoffman plays Günther Bachmann, the grizzled leader of a covert government agent, tasked with seeking out and apprehending potential terrorists on the streets of Hamburg, Germany. Cue the arrival of Issa Karpov, a newly arrived immigrant, whose mysterious appearance has put him directly in the director’s sights. However, Bachmann isn’t the only one that is interested in Kapov, and when pressure from rival government agency mounts, Bachmann is left with only a 72 hour window to apprehend his target.
All the ingredients for an engaging, edge-of-your-seat thriller are present in this film, but the problem is, that none of the story’s true potential is ever allowed to manifest. Actors like Rachel McAdams, and Grigorly Dobrygin spend the whole film trying to figure out which accent they’re supposed to do, while Corbijn seemingly spends his creative energy solely with shot composition and lighting, disregarding the potential in the narrative. What we’re left with is a film devoid of any substance or real purpose. Hoffman’s portrayal of a jaded and worn down spy is one that is initially intriguing, but after about 40 minutes, he reaches his load bearing capacity, and is no longer able to carry the film.
A Most Wanted Man is by no means a bad film, but it simply fails to live up to its potential, making for an underwhelming cinematic experience, in what can only be described as a wasted opportunity.