Following his 2007 debut Control, Dutch-born photographer turned director Corbijn returns to form with a version of Le Carré’s eponymous novel, filmed in Hamburg and Berlin in just 40 days. The constraints imposed by this schedule are evident, but logically so, in the movie’s delineation of post 9/11 counter-terrorist urgency as a sequence of grey zones that start with a thin, dishevelled man climbing out of Hamburg’s port waters and running to take shelter.
A semi-official anti-terror unit operating under one Günther Bachmann (Hoffmann) with the grudging complicity of Germany’s secret services soon identifies this most wanted man as a Muslim Chechen who has evidently come to Hamburg following the money deposited there by his deceased father, a Russian officer. As Bachmann and his team (staffed by Nina Hoss and Daniel Brühl) negotiate playing-time and the support of an idealistic human-rights lawyer (Rachel Ad- ams), the greater powers (including Robin Wright as a CIA operative) engage in their own cat-and-mouse games.
Undermining morality with zealous conviction, the ensemble cast pursues agendas marked by delusion and righteousness. And PSH locks it all together: scruffily benevolent, sharp yet slovenly, his performance will make you weep for what is – and what might have been.
A Most Wanted Man | Directed by Anton Corbijn (UK, Germany 2012) with Philip Seymour Hoffmann. Starts September 11.
Originally published in issue #130, September 2014.