Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

A Most Wanted Man


Three things you will not get in a film based on a novel by John le Carré are epic shoot-outs with thousands of rounds expended, massive explosions that people safely run away from, and huge car chases through city streets. Lord, if there were only more films like that! But he has had amazing success, or luck, or whatever you want to call it, in having his dense, subtle, and complicated books turned into movies, including at least two masterpieces: The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, and the mini-series Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the original one with Alec Guinness as George Smiley. Four other films were very, very good, and I’m not aware of any total duds.

This one is about average, for a John le Carré film. Which means a damn sight better than just about anyone else’s spy film. His stories involve the real world of spying, which consists of almost infinite patience, subtle ploys, backstabbing, betrayal, and other nice things like that.

Philip Seymour Hoffman, in his next-to-last movie, is a German spymaster with a small group of “deniable” agents. That means that when things have to be done that the government can’t be seen doing, it falls to him to get it done. Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin) is a Muslim man in the country illegally, either fleeing torture in Chechnya, or intent on some terrorist activity. But which is it? He is the heir to a considerable fortune, and is being aided in his immigration status by a lawyer (Rachel McAdams) working for a liberal organization. Robin Wright is an American CIA agent who takes an interest in the case, as does a rival German government agency.

And so the game begins. It is far too complex to summarize, and at times it became a bit too knotty for me to unravel, but it’s a lot of fun getting to the conclusion which, as in so many le Carré stories, is a bitter one.