“A Most Wanted Man,” adapted from the spy novel by John le Carré, is not one of those stale, depressing and confusing European or Indie films. It also doesn’t hit you upside the head with exaggerated violence, unnecessarily long and dramatic car chases and sex, sex, sex!
Set in the port city of Hamburg, Germany, where the film notes Mohammed Atta conceived and planned the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it begins with a half-Chechen, half-Russian Muslim man stumbling into Hamburg illegally. German counter-terror intelligence quickly identifies him as a suspected jihadi, and soon the U.S. and German government are involved.
The narrative is constantly shifting between a number of subplots and characters, so you’re not always sure what the story’s ultimately about. But it’s fairly easy to keep up, and you’re not constantly ticked off because you have no idea who that guy is or what just happened or what planet you’re on.
In his last leading role, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman plays an alcoholic German intelligence officer with a mysterious past. Rachel McAdams plays a liberal lawyer deemed “a social worker for terrorists,” and “House of Cards” star Robin Wright plays the American operative. Then there’s the wealthy banker (Willem Dafoe), Muslim doctor who may or may not actually be a friend of the West (Homayoun Ershadi), his son who is a German undercover operative (Mehdi Dehbi), and, of course, the immigrant who may or may not be a terrorist (Grigoriy Dobrygin).
Pick your bad guy and your good guy and try to figure out where the film’s going, but I promise you will not see the end coming. And if you’re still uneasy about the lack of sex and violence, don’t panic. Rachel MacAdams keeps it sexy, Hoffman and Wright are brilliant, and the film is peppered with surprising moments of intimacy and laugh-out-loud humor.