A Man Most Wanted makes the Oscar-winning German slow burn surveillance film The Lives of Others look like Raiders of the Lost Ark.
If you have not seen The Lives of Others, I strongly recommend staying home and “renting” it rather than dropping your hard-earned lettuce on Philip Seymour Hoffman’s swan song film performance.
Yes, Hoffman’s work is good in this film. While it’s undeniable that he doesn’t look well physically, and it’s now impossible not to paint a tragic patina on to that reality, his slovenly appearance and exasperated demeanor work for the character, a German intelligence agent swimming up-stream against international bureaucrats to detain a radical Islamic money link in guilt plagued post 9/11 Berlin.
But he’s working in a vacuum in this picture. And not just his character.
A Most Wanted Man landed in the hands of the wrong director (maybe?) and the wrong editor (definitely!). It is also mis-cast with actors Rachel McAdams and Willem Dafoe, who stray way beyond their reach here, not only with brutal accents, but the subtle cat and mouse intensity required for stories like this to work. Robin Wright isn’t bad, but she’s doing nothing more than delivering the exact same Wasp ice queen that fans of House of Cards will recognize immediately.
The final 15 minutes of the film deliver a couple of memorable moments, but the plodding journey it takes to arrive there is not worth the investment.
I will not be surprised at all, however, if the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, easily one of the finest actors of his generation or any other, receives an Oscar nomination for his performance in A Most Wanted Man.
I will applaud that. The film’s failures are not his fault. He did what he always did; dove deep, listened closely, acted without ego, and laid it all out there for us to see.