A MOST WANTED MAN
Siding with the Bad Guys
Starring: Phillip Seymour Hoffman,
Rachel McAdams, Grigoriy
Dobrygin, Willem Dafoe, Robin
Wright, Homayoun Ershadi, Nina
Hoss, Franz Hartwig, Daniel
Bruhl, Kostja Ullmann, Vicky
Krieps, Mehdi Dehbi, Rainer
Audience: Older teenagers and adults
Runtime: 121 minutes
Distributor: Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate
Director: Anton Corbijn
Executive Producer: John le Carré, Tessa Ross,
Sam Englebardt, William D.
Producer: Stephen Cornwell, Gail Egan,
Malte Grunert, Simon Cornwell,
Writer: Andrew Bovell
Address Comments To:Jon Feltheimer, CEO, Lionsgate Films AKA Lions Gate Films (Summit Entertainment/Roadside Attractions)
2700 Colorado Ave.
Santa Monica, CA 90404
Phone: (310) 449-9200; Fax: (310) 255-3870
The story of A MOST WANTED MAN centers on Gunther, a chain-smoking middle-aged man who runs Germany’s secret anti-terrorist division in Hamburg, the port city where the leader of the 911 hijackers was stationed. Gunther is focused on co-opting Abdullah, the head of a large Muslim charity group, who launders some of his charity monies to a shipping company in league with Muslim terrorists overseas. A young Chechen Muslim named Issa is a key to Gunther’s plot. Issa entered Germany illegally and is trying to become a German citizen. Issa’s mother was raped by a Russian military officer with lots of money in a secret German bank account.
Gunther and his team co-opt a beautiful young attorney named Annabel, who’s helping Issa get legal papers. Issa doesn’t want his father’s money. Instead, he wants to use only a small part of it to get his citizenship papers. So, Gunther and his team convince Annabel to convince Issa to give his money to Abdullah’s charity. Then, Gunther will have leverage on Abdullah to convince Abdullah to help Gunther get the goods on the terrorist leaders behind the shipping company.
Can Gunther convince the heads of the German spy agency and the local chief of the CIA’s bureau in Germany, a woman, to go along with this plan? Even if they do, will Gunther’s plan succeed?
As in many, though not all, of le Carré’s work, the hero here is a master of manipulation. However, A MOST WANTED MAN is another case where the manipulative hero is himself manipulated and even betrayed. Although this makes for thrilling, intricate, compelling storytelling, the tendency to make the western powers, especially the Americans, the bad guys, and the Muslims or leftists the good guys (or at least the innocent guys) continues to be annoying and evil. Le Carré’s more recent stories, thus, have become too much like ham-fisted leftist propaganda rather than well-written novels of intricate intrigue.
The worldview seems highly Romantic, but sometimes borders on misanthropic. Thus, the characters in this le Carré story, as in many others of his, are part of a world where the social and political order has corrupted people, who seem born good. Still, one also gets the sense that le Carré sees people as incapable of being transformed for the better. Thus, le Carré’s world is a world without Jesus. Ironically, the hero here makes an offhand remark about the saving power of Jesus Christ, but it’s clear that he himself doesn’t believe in it, despite the inner sense of decency that his character sometimes displays.
MOVEIGUIDE®, therefore, can’t commend A MOST WANTED MAN. Ultimately, it seems to side with the bad guys, the Muslims who either commit heinous acts of terror or let them occur under their nose. Some of le Carré’s earlier stories, such as THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD, THE HONOURABLE SCHOOLBOY or TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY, seem to be much better, more rewarding examples of this style of fiction and of le Carré’s best work. Clearly, the Richard Burton version of THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD and the TV version of TINKER featuring Alec Guinness remain the two best versions of a le Carré novel. Le Carré means “The Square” in French, by the way.
A MOST WANTED MAN has tense moments and excellent acting, especially by the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Gunther. However, it’s too slow to be truly compelling. Worse, however, the Muslim characters and the idealistic liberal lawyer become victims of the Americans. So, the movie, which is based on a novel by an acclaimed leftist author, sides with the bad guys. As usual, the Americans are the bad guys, and Muslims are misunderstood victims of the West. A MOST WANTED MAN also includes some “f” words, though it’s free of graphic sex and violence.