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Philip Seymour Hoffman is A Most Wanted Man in one of his last film roles prior to his death. As most readers are already aware, Hoffman was found dead of a drug overdose in his Upper West Side apartment in Manhattan back in February 2014. The native New Yorker and prolific thespian had several projects completed, as well as a number of projects in the works at the time of his death, including The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. A Most Wanted Man is the latest to be released and features a potentially career-defining performance from the late Hoffman.
The film is an adaptation of John le Carre’s 2008 novel of the same name. The prolific spy novelist once again draws audiences in with his gritty and gripping expose of the costs endured by those that give their lives to the espionage game. The film is centered around the exploits of Hoffman’s character, German Counterterrorism Chief Gunther Bachmann. Much like the actor selected to portray him, Bachmann is a tortured soul who is at the end of his rope. He has been brutalized by his work and his soul has been drained. A fine supporting cast, including Rachel McAdams (The Notebook), Robin Wright (House of Cards), and Willem Dafoe (The Fault in Our Stars), helped to round out the stellar performances that propel this captivating and angst-ridden tale forward.
The film is set against the backdrop of Hamburg, Germany, which is the port city where Egyptian terrorist Mohamed Atta helped to orchestrate the September 11 attacks on the United States. Philip Seymour Hoffman is A Most Wanted Man and his character of Bachmann is determined the same events will not happen again. Bachmann’s ultimate goal is to build a spy network that can successfully penetrate Islamic terrorist groups, use them to recruit spies, then turn them into lackeys who will do his bidding. While his tactics prove to be viable, the costs associated with them eat away at him and put him in untenable situations that cannot be sustained.
The thing that sets le Carre’s stories and subsequent films apart is that there are consequences, not only to terrorists and other antagnostics involved but to those who chase them. Le Carre’s stories also often touch on the human price paid by people who do such work. This is very much the case with A Most Wanted Man and one of Hoffman’s farewell film performances. In the film, as Bachmann is consumed by the gravitas and moral consequence of his job, Hoffman depicts him as he consumes bad food, as well as whiskey and cigarettes. He also does not have time to exercise or go to the gym. Instead, he is seen waiting hours in a car to meet a source or doing surveillance. The villains in these spy tales rarely have the same physical consequences as the protagnostics, however, they do usually suffer severe moral consequences as a result of their actions. The same is true in A Most Wanted Man.
Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance in A Most Wanted Man will draw the audience into the spy game and make the viewers feel the pain involved in the soul-sucking and morally compromised world of espionage. Hoffman shines in one of his last film roles prior to his death and his performance will be talked about for many years to come. As the actor himself met his tragic end, his performance in this film will demonstrate the human price paid by those who seek to make the world safe, no matter the cost to themselves. The performance is haunting and makes the audience wonder if the gravitas Hoffman consumed by immersing himself in the role could have contributed to his untimely demise? This is a question that may never be answered.
Opinion and Review By Leigh Haugh