Welcome to the Larry411.com Guest Columnists! April 27, 2013
In my travels to the best film festivals in…
It might be mid-summer, the traditional time for lazy, hazy, crazy days on the beach and by the barbecue, but there's no shortage of quality fare hitting cinemas. Alongside the big budget Hollywood blockbusters are independent films guaranteed to make you think -- movies just a cut above the check-your-brain-at-the-door popcorn flicks at the multiplex.
One of those cerebral options hitting theaters today is A Most Wanted Man, a two-hour slow burn of a spy thriller from award-winning director Anton Corbijn, based on the 2008 John le Carré novel of the same name (he also Executive Produced). This was Philip Seymour Hoffman's last starring role (and the film is dedicated to him at the end), playing Günther Bachmann, a terrorist tracker for a German spy agency. Controversy dogs his every move as government infighting (including those pesky Americans) threatens to derail his master plan. Conventional wisdom says those barbarous evil-doers must be brought down at any cost. But Bachmann does business the old-fashioned way, with patiently detailed detective work, and that approach doesn't fly in the new Germany of the post-911 era.
The picture co-stars Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright, Willem Dafoe, Daniel Brühl, and Grigoriy Dobrygin as a Chechen Muslim in Hoffman's sights -- all are riveting. Set and shot in the port city of Hamburg and bustling Berlin, Germany, A Most Wanted Man was financed primarily by German and UK production companies so it is a "foreign film," technically, but is in English with an occasional subtitled bit of Arabic or German. For the most part, though, there's only one American character and everyone else speaks broken English (including Hoffman).
High production values elevate the film and make the most of its healthy $20 million budget. After winning three awards at Cannes for Control, former music video director Anton Corbijn became the wunderkind of cinema in 2007. Here, his vision benefits from a veteran creative team of award-winning professionals.
Cinematographer Benoît Delhomme has over 50 features to his credit, including 1997's Artemisia (for which he received a César nomination, France's Oscar equivalent), The Winslow Boy, The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Merchant of Venice, 1408, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and Lawless. The Academy has shined upon editor Claire Simpson. She won the Oscar for 1986's Platoon and was nominated for The Constant Gardener (2006). She also edited Someone to Watch Over Me, Wall Street, Tequila Sunrise, State of Grace, The Mambo Kings, Black Beauty, and The Fan. Her run of successes since 2005 is profound, with six amazing titles in a row leading up to A Most Wanted Man: The Constant Gardener, The Return, Stop-Loss, The Reader, Nine, and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Herbert Grönemeyer is an iconic German television actor-turned-composer, branching out into music with a Breakout Composer of the Year nomination for 2010's The American from the International Film Music Critics Association. His score for A Most Wanted Man is sparse and subtle, never self-indulgent or heavy-handed.
Hoffman's aggressive performance, and his indelicate dance with McAdams as an earnest public interest lawyer on the Chechen suspected terrorist's behalf, Dafoe as a wealthy banker, and Wright as the American agent, underscore how tragic was the loss of this brilliant Oscar-winning young actor five months ago at the age of 47. A Most Wanted Man serves as an apt epitaph, a final bit of punctuation on a long, illustrious career cut too short.
The typical spy thriller has a tried and true formula. The pace is somewhat uniform throughout, with rapidfire action from opening to closing credits. More often, the narrative picks up speed along the way, concluding with a dynamic third act leading to a breathtaking climax. A Most Wanted Man curiously, and refreshingly, does just the opposite. The opening sequences are predictably frenetic, introducing us to a multitude of characters and several plot scenarios. However, the expected assault on the senses never materializes. The pace actually slows, with the movie morphing into a patient character study with Hoffman’s Günther Bachmann at the center of a waiting game. It’s a surprising take on the genre that will leave viewers pondering the outcome long after leaving the theater.
Sales rep FilmNation sold the rights to around 20 different distributors around the world, including eOne in Canada. Here in the States it's a Lionsgate/Roadside release. It was shot in the fall of 2012 and meandered through post until its debut at Sundance this year, where Hoffman attended with the cast and crew. It opened in Denmark in March and hits US theaters today, July 25. A Most Wanted Man is rated R for language. There are 16 other dates set for other countries through the end of October.
A Most Wanted Man opens today at 361 locations nationwide, including the following locations here in South Florida: Regal South Beach 18, AMC Sunset Place 24, AMC Aventura Mall 24, Paragon Grove 15, The Classic Gateway in Fort Lauderdale, Cinemark Palace 20 in Boca Raton, Regal Shadowood 16, Movies of Delray, and Carmike Parisian 20 in West Palm Beach.
A set of stills is below, followed by the official trailer.
Rachel McAdams and Philip Seymour Hoffman in A MOST WANTED MAN.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Roadside Attractions
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In my travels to the best film festivals in…