A spy gets drawn into a dangerous game when he tries to entrap a wealthy philanthropist.
From director Anton Corbijn (Control, The American), A Most Wanted Man is based on a 2008 novel by spymaster himself John le Carré and deals with the grim and gnarled realities of espionage in a way that’s more bureaucracy than Bond.
It’s also, to my mind, another alliterative b word – boring. I was trying to think of a more positive way to describe it but there’s simply no other way to put it that properly gets the point across. A Most Wanted Man is boring.
It moves at a pace that would make a glacier look speedy, spending huge swatches of time in meetings and sedate skulduggery. It’s not that what’s happening is precisely dull, the intrigue is there but it’s so often suffocated to an absolute standstill.
It’s my understanding that Corbijn and screenwriter Andrew Bovell were trying to get across a real sense of what actual spy-stuff is like – which mostly seems to involve sitting around and trying to manipulate people while dodging other men in suits. And that’s no doubt accurate, but lordy do I not want to spent over 2 hours experiencing it in nearly excruciating real time.
There are plenty of good points too, don’t get me wrong. The film looks fantastic, gorgeous and gritty and the same time, and it’s a fantastic final performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman (bar his supporting turn in Mockingjay). His accent is the right kind of convoluted for an international man of mystery and he’s also likely a more realistic vision of a spy than we’re used to seeing onscreen.
The rest of the cast is surprisingly starry too, including a wonky-accented Rachel McAdams, Willem Defoe and a great role for Robin Wright. And if you’re looking for random positives, this is a film which manages to make a signature signing seem tense.
A Most Wanted Man has already earned strong reviews and fans of a certain kind of deliberate pace will probably get more out of it than I did, as well as a solid send off for Hoffman. But for everyone else, my final word is this – some people literally fell asleep in my screening.