The dangers of making the world a safer place

This is my review of A Most Wanted Man [DVD].

With the German authorities determined that the port of Hamburg should not be a seedbed of Islamic terrorism as it was for 9/11, the Americans and Russians are equally keen to take a hard line when Chechen dissident Issa Karpov turns up in the city. Maverick spymaster Günther Backmann, played by Seymour Hoffmann in one of his last roles, is determined to use Karpov as what he sees as a minnow to catch the barracuda of a Islamic benefactor who is suspected of siphoning off money for military purposes. Karpov's past and his current motives remain unclear, but how far can anyone be trusted?

As is usually the case, Le Carré's work requires total concentration, giving too little time to pin down possible flaws, or catch the answers to the questions which surface after the event. Yet, this film seems to me relatively clear, working towards a dramatic conclusion, which makes the mistake of dragging on just a minute or two too long. The ready assumption is that Karpov is "the most wanted man" but perhaps it is Backmann who manages to rile too many people.

The quality of acting of the main players is consistently high and mercifully audible, with generally sharp and engaging dialogues. Seymour Hoffmann stands out in his portrayal of a shambling yet astute character, capable of ruthless manipulation, perhaps a little too arrogant for his own good, yet displaying at times a surprising empathy for those he uses as pawns. This makes Hoffmann's premature death even more of a poignant waste.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Stars

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