In Review

A Most Wanted Man – reviews of ‘haunting' Hoffman spy film

Philip Seymour Hoffman 'magnificent' until the end in slow-burn Le Carre espionage tale

Philip Seymour Hoffman in A Most Wanted Man

What you need to know

One of Philip Seymour Hoffman's last films before his death earlier this year, spy thriller A Most Wanted Man, opens in UK cinemas today. The film, based on a novel by John Le Carre is directed by Anton Corbijn (Control, The American).

When a half-Chechen, half-Russian torture survivor turns up in Hamburg's Islamic community to claim his late-father's fortune, US and German security agencies are on alert. Is he a victim of oppression or an extremist bent on destruction?

Hoffman appears as German spymaster Gunther Bachmann alongside Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright and Willem Dafoe, with Grigoriy Dobrygin (How I Ended This Summer) as the 'wanted man'.

 What the critics like

"Corbijn's film, coolly detailed and patient with its information, even outdoes Tinker, Tailor as ruffled human portraiture," says Robbie Collin in the Daily Telegraph. Hoffman's wheezing authority is lavishly mesmerising in one of his great performances, and as you start to deduce how great it is, you feel his loss keenly and afresh.

"The cruder and more callous our pulp diversions become, the more crucial Le Carre seems to be in portraying spies and realpolitik on film as a crunch of expediency, betrayal and resignation," says in Siobhan Synnot in The Scotsman. Here Hoffman brings focus to this slow-burn tangle of plots and counter-plots involving a large cast intriguing personalities.

Corbijn serves up plenty of good, foggy, rainy ambiguity but "in the end, A Most Wanted Man is all Hoffman", says David Edelstein on Vulture. As the actor grew heavier and more sodden, he became more intensely inward and you feel no gap between Hoffman and his role.

What they don't like

Hoffman is magnificent, but haunting - "is this great acting or his own despair?" asks David Thomson in the New Republic. The film is specious as a thriller because one look at Hoffman and we realise both the character and the actor cannot escape knowing he has been dead some time. 

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