A Most Wanted Man (one of Phillip Seymour Hoffman's Last Films)

This is out. Spy thriller. Anyone see it?

Here’s the writer John le Carre writing about PSH, if you didn’t see it. (Er, I forget where I saw the link for this, so apologies if it was already posted in another thread.)

I saw this on Friday and liked it a lot. It’s not my favorite le Carré adaptation, but I think this is more an issue with the source material just not being as compelling. Hoffman was great as always.

I just saw this and didn’t really like it at all. Vague spoilers follow.

I like movies and TV that capture the ordinary, mundane, non-glamorous side of things, like Zero Dark Thirty, or The Wire for example. But those two examples are, as works themselves, still extremely captivating, and only about how their subject matter can sometimes be repetitive, or boring, or frustrating, and involve a lot of waiting around or being tied up in bureaucracy and institutional failings.

A Most Wanted Man was about a lot of those same themes, but it failed to pull me in and make me care. I didn’t really care about the stakes (or really understand them) until the very end, and by the time I understood what was on the line, I also pretty much guessed how it was going to shake out. I still enjoyed those last 10 minutes or so, but I was bored silly for most of the movie. I don’t really care for Rachel McAdams, so that didn’t help. Everyone else was okay, with PSH getting a few cool long takes in conversations with people along the way. Those were cool scenes in isolation, but didn’t engage me along the way. And of course the rather explosive fallout at the end was “classic PSH”, it’s hard not to miss that. But overall, I was disappointed.

I thought it was excellent, highly recommended. Insanely intelligent from beginning to end, very few movies have me contemplating what was left unsaid, and what’s behind that which was left unsaid.

I disagree with the critique that it fails to pull you in and make you care. The movie doesn’t give us enough reasons to care intentionally. Which is actually pretty remarkable for a movie these days, we’re so used to them beating us over the head with cheap emotional sledgehammers (see Insterstellar :). Sure Issa does get a few sympathy points; he was tortured, he wants to escape to a normal life, etc., but he remains an unfriendly non-communicative fanatical Muslim with prior ties to terrorists. Other characters too, all of them a mix of several motivations. Even the banker, of course we distrust him, but in the end a few sympathy points for him too.

Yes the pacing is a bit slow, but I think it requires a certain mindset to enjoy. This movie gives us the details as to how intelligence is gathered. It’s a messy jurisdictional mess ofcompeting interests. And how institutions get in the way, but not necessarily out of incompetence; the movie portrays nearly everyone in the intelligence community as capable professionals. It’s a mess, and the outcome is rarely ideal, but for the most part it still gets done.

Anyway see it if you haven’t.

It’s a frustrating experience because they want it to be and I definitely think it works. It’s deliberately slow and uneventful but not enough that you lose interest, at least I didn’t.

Also, the ending is magnificent.