Monday, 15 September 2014


A hollow but engaging spy thriller from Anton Corbijn. It is hollow in that it is brimful of potential - be that for thematic expansion, stylistic expansion or an exquisite marriage of both - which it largely fails to fully capitalise upon. With uncommitted attempts toward tension, sophistication and narrative intricacy, A Most Wanted Man registers frequently as a work of intelligence, yet it also shortchanges each of those attempts in lacking the ambition either to develop them adequately, or to combine them effectively. The film is weighted down by listless sequences in which bonds are formed that are of scant interest to us, or others in which very little is formed at all. If Corbijn's point is that modern espionage is a distinctly tedious occupation, he doesn't assert it particularly inventively, instead flippantly pawning off the tedium onto the film. Yet there's so much inherently right about A Most Wanted Man that to bemoan it for what it is not feels unjust. Admittedly, I'm a sucker for a spy thriller anyway. Corbijn has an eye for memorable imagery, though not necessarily attractive cinematography - his background as a still photographer is apparent here - and his visual storytelling is perceptive, if only intermittently so. He manufactures a selection of suspenseful sequences strewn through the film, and stages a breathtakingly brutal twist in a climactic scene, a bona fide sting in the tail. He's also educed good performances from his cast; Philip Seymour Hoffman, in particular, is excellent, quietly understanding that even the grandest character traits can only be realised truthfully if presented with ease, simplicity, understatement, naturalism and, crucially, humility. He's not in the film enough, not at all. It'd be a lot less hollow were he.