Thursday, 25 September 2014

A Most Wanted Man (4 Stars)

Ever since this film was announced a friend of mine who is a big John le Carré fan was telling me that I really must watch it. And then another friend who's an Anton Corbijn fan told me I should watch it. But I didn't need the encouragement of either of them. The film stars Philip Seymour Hoffman in the leading role, so I would have gone to see it whoever had written or directed it.

I have never read any of John le Carré's books, but I know a little about him. He is a British author who writes books about espionage. He had the advantage of working for the British intelligence services, MI5 and MI6, which gave him insight into the way espionage works. This film is very different to spy thrillers such as the James Bond films. We don't have spectacular car chases and agents leaping from helicopters while firing their guns at people on the ground. This is a very sober story of the way secret agents really live and work. It's not all excitement being a spy, it's about investigation, paperwork and negotiations with the police and other agencies. Being a spy is a 9 to 5 job, and this film gives an insight into the job for anyone who is considering it as a career.

Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Günther Bachmann, the head of a small counter-terrorism unit based in Hamburg. A Chechnyan terrorist who is being sought by the Russian authorities enters Germany illegally. The German police want to arrest him immediately, but Bachmann persuades them to let him remain free, under observation, so that he can be used to gain evidence that a Moslem philanthropist, Dr. Faisal Abdullah, is secretly financing Al Qaeda.

Apart from Philip Seymour Hoffman and Willem Dafoe, who plays a banker, the film contains the top German actors Daniel Brühl and Nina Hoss. The singer Herbert Grönemeyer has a small part in the film, as well as composing the film's music.

It's interesting that this is the second film I've seen in the cinema in two weeks which includes an excerpt from "The Mussolini", a 1981 hit by DAF. In "A Most Wanted Man" it's being played in a club, in "The Guest" we hear Anna Petersen listening to it in her room. DAF are a group who achieved great success in Germany, but are hardly known in other countries. It would be good to revive interest in them.

Click here for the music video of "The Mussolini".

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