ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

A Most Wanted Man (2014) Review

Updated on August 4, 2014

I came to this movie for 3 reasons: 1) The talented director Anton Corbijn, who blew me away with ‘The American’; 2) a story by John le Carré, the celebrated actual British spy-turned-spy novelist; and 3) my favorite actor, the arts’ missing jewel, Philip Seymour Hoffman. I expected this combination to pack a whalloping punch, to blow away the cinema world with a bold show of force. And now that I’ve seen it, surprisingly, I know that won’t happen. Because, contrary to expectation, this film is heady but heartfelt, large in theme but subtle in execution, accessible but elusive. It is, in fact, a beautiful little work of art. And what a talent it takes to create such a small thing with the immense responsibility of such grand resources!

Corbijn first accomplishes this feat in the look of his film. Although we might expect stoic, grandly-planned shots for the subject matter at hand (the spy agencies of several nations going head-to-head over a Muslim target and his millions), what we get instead is a lot of handheld camerawork, lending much of the narrative a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants feel. This is fitting if you think about it, because the story concerns hidden and secret people, voyeurism, and adhoc planning. This does not, however, prevent the cinematography from having its own strikingly beautiful moments.

The next important element that creates this Small Gem Effect is the care taken to understand each character, and to build/reveal/suggest relationships between them. Some relationships are explicit and fragile, others are hidden and complex. But none of the main characters feels like an afterthought, and all of them open the narrative into a thousand possibilities by the end.


Perhaps the most striking Small Gem feature here, though, is the perfectly understated performance of the “central” character, Hoffman. Think about the weight on an American actor of playing a German spy disliked and mistrusted by much of the international spy community. How easy it would be to play it larger than life, to play up the accent, the moxy! But no, says Hoffman, that is not this man. This man is cold, distant, quiet, smart—always calculating, like a chess player far ahead of everyone else—but beneath it lies some compassion, which can’t be revealed as compassion lest it signify a weakness. His character feels thoroughly researched, understood, and true to the nature of such a man in the real world. And although his German accent is underplayed and slightly off, his past remains mysterious enough that we are allowed to wonder whether it might be put-on…

Of course, that exact openness is the true genius of this piece. At first I kept expecting everything to have deeper and deeper layers, to keep unravelling. But then the filmmaker taught me something: that although those layers might be true, so what? What matters is the story at hand. And sometimes the stories you branch off into your mind can be a lot more meaningful and revealing than something explicity given to you. So when the end comes, and you’re sitting in stunned and/or confused silence, just remember that, whatever you think actually happened, you could be right. And then let that go, because it’s not really the point. The point is the question, that burning, eternal paranoia.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      MashDaniels 

      4 years ago

      Great review. I agree, the character work was incredible—understated yet so rich! This is such a timely piece exploring global issues that affect us all, but aren’t given much dedicated screen time. Great movie!

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)