THE history of cinema may well look upon Dutch director Anton Corbijn’s filming of John le Carre’s novel as valedictory for Philip Seymour Hoffman playing German intelligence chief Bachmann whose underlying humanity in the conflict between the good guys (most of us) and terrorist bad guys (the rest of us) puts him offside with the plods.
It’s a towering performance. But spare a thought also for le Carre whose treatment of the secret information trade provides platforms for films that transcend routine spy movies in which a hero applies violence to arrive at the obligatory happy ending.
The hero of “A Most Wanted Man” fights with cunning and hi-tech rather than fist or firearm. His small team is devoted to preventing another Twin Towers, the planning for which began in Hamburg. There, newly-arrived Russian-born Muslim illegal Issa (Grigoriy Dobrygin) is carrying a document identifying him as entitled to a large cash stash. Issa’s lawyer (Rachel McAdams) represents him in negotiations with bank executive Brue (Willem Dafoe). Issa wants the money for philanthropic reasons. Abdullah (Homayoun Ershadi) wants it to fund terrorism. CIA bureau chief Sullivan (Robin Wright) wants both money and Abdullah.
It’s wonderfully complex, deftly presented, low-key excitement for the mind. Australian Andrew Bovell has converted le Carre’s masterly logic into a fine screenplay that shuns cliché until the last minute and a half, with a closure reminding me of “The Honourable Schoolboy”, so Byzantine and complex a le Carre story that I doubt anybody will ever film it. Pity.
At Dendy, Capitol 6 and Palace Electric