A Most Wanted Man (2014) – reviewed by George

Issa Karpov, the son of a Chechen Muslim and a Russian military officer, slips into Hamburg, and is found and tracked by a German Intelligence Unit. The leader of this unit, Bachman, is played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, in one of his last performances. Karpov, played by Grigoriy Dobrygin, has escaped from the Russians and is considered a terrorist. Is that because he is half Chechen, or because he is half Muslim, or did the Russians have a different reason for labeling him a terrorist? Bachman’s unit is also investigating the leader of a Muslim charity organization, Abdullah, played by Homayoun Ershadi, who is suspected of diverting a fraction of the charity’s donations to terrorist works. Abdullah is a dedicated family man; would he really put his family at risk? Either of these men might be guilty or innocent; only Bachman is trying to get the proof either way (though he suspects one more than the other). Unfortunately, his superior and the American intelligence presence, headed by Robin Wright, are much more motivated by stereotypes, so only Bachman seems to possess the “intelligence” to see beyond instant impressions, and to make moral decisions. The others don’t care and are driven more by time constraints than anything else. And it is hard for Bachman to argue when he is being hammered by statements like, “Well, when the bomb goes off, I want you to see the blood in the streets.” Then just as Bachman appears to have won, and to have reached his goal of arresting only the guilty and letting the innocent go free, he is betrayed by the rest of the intelligence community. This sounds like a spoiler, and is, a little, but you don’t know how he is betrayed or what the results are. And you don’t yet know who is guilty and who is innocent…

The cast is uniformly good. Willem Dafoe plays Issa’s banker and Rachel McAdams is Issa’s lawyer. Mehdi Dehbi is Abdullah’s son. The film is very suspenseful, yet a bit slow, and demands an alert audience, so stay awake and listen.  I really don’t think you will find that difficult.

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