Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Intricate espionage plot is classic le Carré

Rumpled final role a good fit for late actor Hoffman

  • Print

One must always distinguish between "spy thriller" and "John le Carré spy thriller."

The former is generally fantasy. The latter is the stuff of grim reality.

So be advised: If you thought the 2011 film version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was a little dull, action-wise, it's a non-stop thrill ride compared with Anton Corbijn's adaptation of le Carré's 2008 novel A Most Wanted Man.

That's not a complaint. Unless you appreciate le Carré's meticulously constructed plots and his brilliant, white-collar warrior-heroes, you may find there's nothing to see here.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was evidently a fan. In his last starring role, Hoffman plays Gunther Bachmann, a contemporary German spymaster in the George Smiley mould.

Bachmann operates out of Hamburg, deemed a terrorist hot spot in the aftermath of 9/11, when it was discovered Mohamed Atta had planned the airliner attacks as part of a Hamburg cell of al-Qaida.

On hyper-alert, Bachmann's team of spies discovers a suspicious presence in town in the person of Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin), a Chechen rebel recently escaped from a Turkish prison.

Karpov does indeed look sketchy, but he has apparently come to Hamburg to leave his past behind, and contend with a shameful legacy. It emerges he is the son of a very corrupt, very dead Russian general who kept a bank account in Hamburg. Issa doesn't even want the money out of the deal. He wants a home.

In that task, he finds an ally in Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams), a liberal lawyer, who acts as his go-between with cagey German banker Tommy Brue (Willem Dafoe).

Interceding in all their lives is the rumpled, but persuasive Gunther, who plans to use Issa and his cash to get the goods on Abdullah (Homayoun Ershadi), a respected Muslim fundraiser whose charitable works include money-funnelling to a terrorist organization, or so Gunther suspects.

In any case, like any good spy, Gunther is fighting the good fight to land ever more important sources of intelligence, which goes against the policy of his more reactionary bosses, and just maybe a vaguely menacing CIA agent (Robin Wright, essaying the moral ambiguity of her equally hard-to-read character on House of Cards).

Director Corbijn, who explored similar espionage turf in the George Clooney thriller The American, resists any impulse to spice up le Carré's story with gratuitous sex and/or violence. The attraction between Annabel and Issa, for example, is kept touchingly chaste.

One serious quibble is the casting of North Americans as Germans. One certainly forgives giving Hoffman the lead role, as he has one crucial quality for a le Carré hero: he looks like he was born rumpled. One is less forgiving of the presence of McAdams and especially Dafoe, who speak with notably fake German accents, while good German actors such as Nina Hoss and Daniel Brºhl are given precious little to do in the background.

Otherwise, this is an entirely admirable movie about post-9/11 espionage, even more uncivilized now than it was in George Smiley's day.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 25, 2014 D3

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Exclusive architectural tour of CMHR with Antoine Predock

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Down the Hatch- A pelican swallows a fresh fish that it caught on the Red River near Lockport, Manitoba. Wednesday morning- May 01, 2013   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Hay bales sit under a rainbow just west of Winnipeg Saturday, September 3, 2011.(John Woods/Winnipeg Free Press)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you plan on attending any of the CMHR opening weekend events? (select all that apply)

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google