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Sundance 2014 review: A Most Wanted Man

by on January 22, 2014


While A Most Wanted Man might be an adaptation of a John le Carre novel, the themes that resonate throughout the spy thriller don’t require any special relationship with the author’s work to connect with film-goers.

The spy thriller set in Hamburg, Germany–where the 9/11 plot was planned and set into motion–tackles a number of issues that have taken on even more resonance since le Carre’s novel was first published in 2008. At the forefront of this story is the competitive and collaborative security relationships between nations in the post-9/11 world.

The lead German spy featured in A Most Wanted Man is Gunter Bachmann, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, and he struggles to wheel and deal with the U.S. CIA rep (Robin Wright) after having been burned by the American agency in the past. The reliance of intelligence-gathering agencies on high-tech gadgetry is another focus, as are the complicated relationships of countries and governments that we rarely get a glimpse of as average citizens.

Hoffman leads a stellar cast directed by Anton Corbijn, a visionary music video director who has successfully moved into feature films without missing a beat. A Most Wanted Man is not an action movie–anyone looking for car chases or fight sequences will be disappointed. But fans of taut think-pieces packed with geo-political intrigue will find plenty to like as a social worker/lawyer named Annabel Richter, (Rachel McAdams) helps a suspected terrorist elude the authorities, while those authorities, led by Hoffman, follow the accused man’s money through a global terrorism network.

The tense scenes of wiretaps and undercover surveillance are certainly timely in the NSA age, and Hoffman, McAdams and castmates Willem Dafoe and Grigoriy Dobrygin are roundly excellent in this talk-heavy spy game. There’s not exactly a hopeful message at film’s end, in terms of the state of global security, but the ride to get there is worthwhile thanks to the performances of those involved.

Remaining A Most Wanted Man screenings: 

Thursday, Jan. 23, 6:30 p.m., Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, SLC

Friday, Jan. 24, 9:30 p.m., Peery’s Egyptian Theatre, Ogden

Saturday, Jan. 25, 6:30 p.m., Redstone Cinema, Park City

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