Four months after the unexpected death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of his final performances is being screened at Edinburgh International Film Festival. An Unwanted Man presents Hoffman as the leader of a secret team, living in Hamburg and fighting the war against terror in dangerous and highly sensitive ways. The film follows a simple plan to bring down a doctor who is suspected of financing terrorism and Al-Qaeda, with a shipping company disguising this behaviour. Gunther Bachmann, played by Hoffman, works with a tight-knit group of comrades whose intentions are ultimately good and intend to protect as many people as possible. As well as struggling to pin down their wanted man, the group must also try to fend off the interest and advances of the American’s who have their own ideas about how the situation should be handled. When a Muslim man is discovered to have immigrated illegally to Hamburg with the intention of inheriting millions in inheritance, Bachmann and his organisation investigate and begin to form a strategy. The film’s great suspense comes from the audience’s positioning. We take the same place as Bachmann; unsure whether or not to trust this man. Stuck in the middle of all this is a human rights lawyer intent on doing what is right for men such as this immigrant, Issa Karpov. Director Anton Corbijn’s A Most Wanted Man has a strong intention and drive. It knows where it wants to go without drifting off into the irrelevant. It sticks to its point and remains focussed and captivating throughout.
The cast is strong, not only does it demonstrate Hoffman’s true mastery of his craft but it also demonstrates the great ability of Rachel McAdams. Other less central characters are also well cast and they deliver excellently. There are no weak links to be found in the chains of this cast. Willem Dafoe is a great asset to the project and seems to really understand his own character. Hoffman’s character rarely stops either drinking or smoking. This worryingly unhealthy and self-destructive man is another typical Hoffman-esque character. Everything bubbles just underneath, a character trait Hoffman truly conquered during his career. A Most Wanted Man tells its story in a simple way, with no fuss of flourish. Ethical discussions about how to deal with this most extreme type of crime continues from start to finish, making the audience question and re-evaluate who their loyalty lies with as the film progresses. What Corbijn demonstrate in the exquisite Control he does here again; proving that cinema excels when it thrives on simplicity and story.
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