Urban Cinefile  
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday July 28, 2020 


A Chechen Muslim immigrates illegally to Hamburg, where he gets caught in the international war on terror.

Review by Louise Keller:
Moody intrigue is the tone of this slow burning espionage thriller from John Le Carre in which Phillip Seymour Hoffman's solid presence as a scotch-drinking, chain-smoking, crumpled German operative leaves an indelible mark. Andrew Bovell (Lantana) has penned a fine screenplay adaptation, albeit a slow start, while director Anton Corbijn injects passion and urgency to the exposition that tracks a terrorist organisation from Hamburg, where the plot for 911 was hatched. It's an intellectual work with its considerable tension created from the issues and mind games that are played, rather than explosive action. The impact is explosive, nonetheless and the rewards considerable.

The most wanted man of the title is Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin), a half Chechen and Russian immigrant with a secret mission in Hamburg involving an inheritance claim for millions of Euros. Rachel McAdams plays Annabel Richter, a human rights lawyer who commits to helping him. Other players include Willem Dafoe as Tommy Brue, who runs the bank where the funds are held (Dafoe is superb) and Robin Wright as Martha Sullivan, a CIA agent who puts her own agenda before integrity (Wright is utterly convincing). Dieter Mohr is excellent as the Hamburg head of Intelligence, whose 'act now' philosophy irrespective of the consequences is at odds with that of Hoffman's Gunter Bachmann. There are backstories to all these characters, which add depth and grit to the relationships that play out. Watch out for Daniel Bruhl who plays a small role but who adds greatly to the authenticity of the scenario.

Trust is a scarce commodity and as Bachmann sets the parameters for a trap to ensnare a local Muslim philanthropist Dr Faisal Abddullah (Homayoun Ershadi) who is suspected of funding terrorist activities, there is a tense waiting game as all the pieces of the puzzle are put into place. While everyone may have the common objective to make the world a safer place, there is conflict in how this is achieved.

The strength of the film is the development of a credible reality in which Bachmann's belief that every good man has a little bit of bad in him, the payback coming in the final reel when true colours are displayed and betrayals are made. Hoffman is superb at every turn, bringing authenticity and gravitas throughout, as we are drawn into Le Carre's complex world where nothing is black and white. If spy thrillers are your thing, you will enjoy this one.

Email this article

Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

(US, 2014)

CAST: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, Robin Wright, Daniel Brühl, Mehdi Dehbi, Kostja Ullman, Nina Hoss, Grigoriy Dobrygin

PRODUCER: Andrea Calderwood, Simon Cornwell, Stephen Cornwell, Gail Egan, Matlte Grunert

DIRECTOR: Anton Corbijn

SCRIPT: Andrew Bovell (novel by John le Carré)


EDITOR: Claire SimpsonSebastian T. Krawinkel

MUSIC: Herbert Grönemeyer

RUNNING TIME: 122 minutes



© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020