E arlier this week I was fortunate to go along with several Establishing Shot readers to a gala screening of Anton Corbijn's latest (and third) film, an adaptation of John le Carré's 21st novel A Most Wanted Man. At a certain point in the film I was unexpectedly shocked - it felt like the cinematic version of a cold slap or a punch in the gut. This would not have been possible had Corbijn not carefully and meticulously seduced me into the world of his lead character Günther Bachmann, masterfully played by Philip Seymour Hoffman.
A Most Wanted Man puts a human face to politicking in our post 9/11 world a world that has sadly become closer to the vision that the engineers and perpetrators of heinous terrorism would like, a world in which decency slowly ebbs away as it becomes more polarised with punitive cookie cutter solutions being attempted to address dynamic and nebulous issues.
If you read the Establishing Shot you will no doubt be aware that I am a fan of master of the spy genre John le Carré's works and that I have been eagerly awaiting Anton Corbijn's version of A Most Wanted Man.
So going along to the screening and introduction by Anton Corbijn was a real treat, as was briefly chatting with one of the stars of A Most Wanted Man - Daniel Brühl whose performance as Niki Lauda in Ron Howard's Rush absolutely blew me away and is up there in one of the most outstanding and electric performances in recent years and made Rush one of my top 10 films of last year.
|A Most Wanted Man UK Poster|
|A Most Wanted Man|
A Chechen Muslim illegally immigrates to Hamburg, where he gets caught in the international war on terror.
Andrew Bovell & John le Carré
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Daniel Brühl, Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, Robin Wright
But as this is a John le Carré tale, a man who worked for several years in the British Intelligence service and is loosely based on actual events - nothing is straightforward or black and white - even our heroes employ questionable tactics to get the job done as the net from internal governmental competition, politics and larger external forces draws tighter on them.
This is the world in which Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin) along with the audience are dragged into as the young Muslim, a suspected Chechen terrorist climbs out of the Elbe river and into the Hamburg shadow world.
I believe to truly appreciate A Most Wanted Man you have to go in knowing nothing, unless you have read the book in which case you know what to expect, and even then Corbijn's approach needs much thought or at least a second viewing to catch up with events portrayed – as A Most Wanted Man shares much with Tomas Alfredson's earlier adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and eschews the Hollywood mainstream emotional touchstone tropes of sex, violence, nudity, expository flashbacks and the obligatory romance to lure us into the story.
A Most Wanted Man is a pot boiler as Günther Bachmann's detective work slowly reveals each piece of the puzzle and builds to its conclusion.
And whilst some of the dialogue may seem a bit stilted and reactions arbitrary, when contrasted with the clever or witty Don Draper like intelligence we have come to expect from our self referential culture – the characters in A Most Wanted Man are more like authentic people caught in a fraught filled world where there is a constant threat of sorts at their heels and they think and react more like real people without some grand master plan that is going to save the day (apart from Günther Bachmann that is) and are in genuine fear of consequences.
Anyway that is a long way around of saying don't read the synopsis below or even watch the trailer just go see the film and let the the story roll out for you.
Below is a clip of Anton Corbijn introducing A Most Wanted Man and explaining why this film was important for him on the evening.
Hamburg, the present day. The city - where the 9/11 bombers lived and plotted - remains on high alert. When a brutally tortured immigrant, identified by Interpol as a possible terror suspect, turns up and lays claim to his father's ill-gotten fortune, he attracts the interest of a secretive anti-terror unit headed by Gunter Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Working with the CIA and forming an uneasy alliance with spy Martha Sullivan (Robin Wright), Bachmann must uncover the truth about the man's identity and his possible connections to high level terrorists. As the clock ticks down and the stakes rise, the race is on to establish this most wanted man's true motives – is he an oppressed victim or a militant jihadist bent on destruction? Based on the novel by the master of the spy genre, John le Carré, A Most Wanted Man is a gripping espionage thriller that prickles with tension right through to its last heart-stopping scene.
There are further similarities to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as the central character Gunter Bachmann is pivotal to the narrative, as is the charismatic performance needed to bring him to life in this world and Philip Seymour Hoffman is absolutely mesmerising in the role. So much so that I wondered what the characters life was like when not on screen, thankfully we see glimpses of this life as well. Bachmann rivals George Smiley's esoteric knowledge and sparkles with intelligence but has one up on him as he lives in our post modern world - I can only marvel at the possibilities of how Philip Seymour Hoffman would have brought him to screen in further tales - that in my opinion are very much needed.
As with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy the cast is made of a formidable talent in smaller roles most notably Robin Wright and Willem Dafoe. Sadly I feel that whilst Robin Wright shines in her role as US diplomat Martha Sullivan, Dafoe isn't given enough to set his banker Tommy Brue, a critical role, apart with his customary aplomb. Possibly I was hoping for so much more as Dafoe crackles with an energy that needs more space and could have fleshed out Brue into one of, if not the most interesting character of the film.
A Most Wanted Man is a film about issues, ideologies and personalities in a post 9/11 world and should at the very least make us think about the world we live in, if not spark debate on where we are going as a people.
The A Most Wanted Man cast is led by Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master, Capote), Rachel McAdams (Sherlock Holmes, Midnight In Paris), Willem Dafoe (Shadow of the Vampire, Platoon) and Robin Wright (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Moneyball).
A Most Wanted Man is in UK cinemas from 12 September 2014.
For more information about A Most Wanted Man head over to their Facebook page here: www.facebook.com/MostWantedManUK or Twitter here: @MostWantedManUK information about John le novel can be found on his site here!
The Establishing Shot: ANTON CORBIJN INTRODUCES A MOST WANTED MAN AND DISCUSSES WHY IT WAS AN IMPORTANT FILM FOR HIM - EVENT REPORT
|Craig is a retired superhero, an obsessive hobbyist, comics fan, gadget lover, flâneur & epicurean who knows an unhealthy amount about Ian Fleming's James Bond.|
When not watching or making films he takes pictures, eats, drinks, dives, tries to connect to nature whilst mentally storyboarding the greatest film ever made. He also sometimes utilises owl-themed gadgets to fight crime.
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