For me, this movie is 90 minutes of moderate tedium followed by 30 minutes of satisfying pay-offs.
Based on a John le Carré spy novel, the film is set in Hamburg and unravels intrigue related to a Chechen Muslim who comes into Germany illegally to claim an inheritance but is detected and followed by a group of anti-terrorism spies almost from the moment he arrives in the port city.
The film is imbued with cool blues and grays, a somber palette, broken up with occasional and meaningful pops of hot yellows and reds in a way that recalls Hitchcock’s cold war thriller, Torn Curtain. The use of color in the film enhances the emotional tone of the movie.
While the major storylines have currency, I found myself frequently thinking about how much more satisfying the early episodes of Homeland were in tackling some of the same territory and also wishing for a bit more backstory for some of the major characters in A Most Wanted Man to explain some of the comments and connections made and to make me care more about events and outcomes.
It’s hard not to watch Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s last filmed performance and wonder if the sadness and frustration that cloak the character he plays were clinging to the actor off-camera, too.