A Most Wanted Man

Subtle But Unsatisfying

Those of a weak constitution may want to skip the next line or two. So… apparently Philip Seymour Hoffman was difficult to work with on set. #Gasp# I hear you exclaim. “A film actor who is difficult to work with?” I hear you question. “Surely not” I hear you protest.

Well yeah, apparently so. Apart from generally being difficult he liked to drink and smoke continuously on set. Given that he died of an overdose of various drugs, its perhaps not entirely surprising that Hoffman tried to avoid sobriety on set. Now, before you berate me for making assumptions about the man’s preference of libation I have a point so bear with me.

In A Most Wanted Man Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a dour German ‘spy’ who is constantly drinking or smoking. There are lingering scenes of the downtrodden spy supping a single malt or giving a cigarette the Dot Cotton treatment. So the point is, is he acting throughout the film or is he just doing what he likes to do?

It’s unfortunate that he died so recently – that probably reads wrong – because I continued to wonder if I was watching a video diary of a man slowly killing himself. This, of course, overshadowed my interpretation of the film and is something that wouldn’t have happened if hadn’t have passed away or if his on screen character had been jumping around like Jim Carrey walking on hot coals and bees!

If you can look past these parallels then something you might not be able to look past is the accents of most of the actors. It’s strange as I would prefer actors to at least have accents if the film is meant to be set in a different country but in A Most Wanted Man I found the accents surprisingly grating and probably would have preferred either a straight up American accent or even just German with subtitles.

But if you look past all of that you are greeted with a well presented film. The film is well shot and builds a rather bleak but enjoyable atmosphere. The locations within this film stray away from typically Gothic buildings which fits with the overall style of the film. You see Hoffman stars as Günther Bachmann who leads a strictly unofficial counter-terrorist team in Hamburg Germany. Because their activity is of a shady nature the film would loose any sense of realism if the film was littered with pin-sharp images of stunning architectural feats. The wardrobe department have also done a great job to build upon this atmosphere by rooting the characters in the environment they inhabit.

Unfortunately the film is ultimately let down by it’s title as you never get the feeling that the bad guy is a most wanted man but then I guess “A man who would be nice to capture at some point if we get the resources to investigate properly” is a far less snappy title.

The problem runs deeper than just the title though because you never get the feeling that the bad guy is really all that bad you therefore never get that “oh shit!” feeling that any of the main protagonists are ever in any sort of danger like you would in a truly great spy film. Because of this the build up is incredibly slow to the extent that some people will find bordering on the verge of tedium and the pay off rather underwhelming – much like when I tell jokes!

The ending to the film is actually the best bit and is the point where you take notice of how good Philip Seymour Hoffman is as an actor and in this film at least, he was the most wanted man.

Go See

  • Well prudced
  • Decent ending
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman


  • Slow, slow, slow
  • Missing the bad part of the bad guy
  • Abrasive accents




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