[Moving picture of popcorn]

Laramie Movie Scope:
A Most Wanted Man

The best laid plans by a spy master ...

[Strip of film rule]
by Robert Roten, Film Critic
[Strip of film rule]

November 16, 2014 -- In one of his last films films to be released after his death, Philip Seymore Hoffman gives another of his pitch-perfect performances in this twisted spy yarn set in Hamburg, Germany.

Hoffman plays German spy master, Günther Bachmann, who heads a small black ops agency for the German government. He and his team are off the books, doing anti-terrorism operations that aren't strictly legal. The movie gives the impression that a lot of governments have units like Bachmann's. This seems possible, if not likely.

Bachmann gets wind of a Chechnyan refugee with terrorist ties, Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin), who has made it across the border into Hamburg. Why is he here? What are his intentions? Bachmann makes it his business to find out, and to keep tabs on him. The German government wants to arrest him, but Bachmann tells them to wait. He has an idea that Karpov might be useful in a scheme he has in mind to catch bigger terrorist fish.

When Bachmann finds out that Karpov has inherited a large amount of money, being held in a corrupt German bank run by Tommy Brue (Willem Dafoe of “The Hunter”) he sees an opportunity to use Karpov to ensnare another man he suspects of terrorist ties, Dr. Abdullah (Homayoun Ershadi of “Zero Dark Thirty”). While the German and American Governments want to arrest these men, Bachmann has other ideas. He wants to catch Abdullah making an illegal funds transfer to a terrorist organization, then use that proof as leverage to control Abdullah, to “own” him. He plans to use Abdullah to get information on terrorists networks. Arresting Abdullah would be a dead end, he argues.

Bachmann sees Karpov and Abdullah as tools against terrorism, but he also sees them both as essentially good men. He sees Karpov as a man who wants to bury his past and to lead an ordinary life in the West. He sees Abdullah as a man who does a lot of good for a lot of people, and who only dabbles in funding terrorists on occasion. He is not an evil man. People in the U.S. and German governments see things in black and white terms. They see both men as terrorists who should be locked up.

Bachmann has a meeting with German government officials and a C.I.A. representative, Martha Sullivan (Robin Wright of “The Conspirator”) and his plan is approved. He goes to work manipulating Karpov through his lawyer, Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams of “About Time”). He also manipulates Brue with pressure in order to ensnare his target, Dr. Abdullah.

In a perfect world, Bachmann's plan would be a model for a better way to deal with terrorism. It's smart, its efficient and principled, in its own way. The problem is, of course, that the only thing less principled than terrorists or spies is politicians, who proceed to gum up the works. This is very low-key for a spy thriller, not as low-key as the somnambulant “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy,” but just as smart a spy yarn, and more entertaining. It rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

[Strip of film rule]
Copyright © 2014 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
[Strip of film rule]
Back to the Laramie Movie Scope index.
[Rule made of Seventh Seal sillouettes]

Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)