Scriptwriter Andrew Bovell's adaptation of John le Carré's 2008 novel resonates with contemporary tensions and issues. Wonderfully complicated, the story's layers peel back as German agent Günter Bachmann, anchor of the plot, pursues Issa. Along the way, Bachmann will have to negotiate with a reluctant German superior, a determined human rights lawyer, a cautious bank manager, a wily Muslim leader, and his own staff.
The magnificent, balancing-act of a performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman as Bachmann, in one of Hoffman's last roles, makes me even sadder for our loss of him. Hoffman inhabits the role of Günter, his every nuance a perfect embodiment of a man eager to trap his prey while juggling those also circling his target. The supporting players--Rachel McAdams as the lawyer, Robin Wright as the CIA operative, Willem Dafoe as the banker, and Grigoriy Dobrygin as Issa--all are solidly convincing, adding to the suspense.
Sabine Engelberg's eye-catching art direction adds a strong, implicit commentary. Ironically, glass dominates the settings--building exteriors, interior offices, tables, windows, and houses--along with translucent plastic. But individuals struggle unsuccessfully to see the situation clearly. There's no real transparency, so much is concealed in motives and actions. The architecture reflects this, as full of twists and turns as the machinations of the people. Similarly, often the foreground or the background is out of focus, signaling that characters don't see the whole picture in sharp relief.
Further, the music and the Hamburg locations complement and contribute to a powerful ambiance. Fans of cloak-and-dagger stories, and I love this genre, will find "A Most Wanted Man" a spy/counter spy jewel. At a Landmark Theatre.