A Most Wanted Man is based on a John Le Carre book. I should know by now – it’s going to be slow, ploddingly methodical, and well-acted. Did I mention slow? I don’t think I’ve ever made it through a whole Le Carre book. He’s a famous author and they keep converting his books into movies, but they are rather boring, in my humble opinion. Hamburg, Germany is the setting and the sun never seems to shine. A secret group of German spies are following a rich Muslim man – they are convinced he’s moving money from legitimate charities and businesses to a sea freight company that is a front for terrorist work.
Then a Russian/Chechnya man named Karpov shows up in Hamburg. His history is one of prison and possible terrorism. Somehow Rachel McAdam as a lawyer takes him as a client. Her goal for the social service she represents is to get him asylum. He wants to give away his late father’s money that’s housed in a German bank – Bruhe Brothers. Willem Dafoe as Thomas Bruhe is approached by the spy group to manipulate Karpov and ultimately get the goods on the Muslim man. Sound convoluted? It is.
And the whole time, the head spy, Gunther (played brilliantly by Philip Seymour Hoffman) sighs deeply, lights cigarettes, pours whiskey into his breakfast coffee, and tries to stay ten steps ahead of the Americans (an always sharp Robin Wright) and the regular German authorities. Gunther, so disheveled, plays the spy game well and wants to work a legitimate deal. He learns to believe in McAdam’s work and is convinced that the young Karpov is not seeking trouble. He wants to be free to begin his life anew. But it takes a long time to establish the cross, double cross, and WTF climax.
That’s the problem with A Most Wanted Man. You want to know what’s going to happen. You enjoy the acting (the late Hoffman is just so good and you feel sorry he’s gone), and yet you look at your watch, waiting…..and waiting…and then, poof, it’s over. Spy work is slow, plodding methodical, and sloooooooooow.