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Review: A Most Wanted Man

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***

While most cinema scribes seem to keep busy adapting YA novels or Nicholas Sparks bestsellers, it's nice to know that the brainy books by John le Carre never seem to fall out of fashion. A Most Wanted Man may not be in the same class as 1965's The Spy Who Came In from the Cold (featuring that incredible Richard Burton performance) or The Constant Gardener (the best film of 2005), but it's nevertheless an intelligent and absorbing watch, and it earns its keep by featuring yet another excellent turn by the late, lamented Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The actor here plays Gunther Bachmann, the head of a German counter-terrorist outfit whose latest target is Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin), a half-Chechen, half-Russian Muslim newly arrived in Hamburg. Bachmann isn't after Karpov to arrest him but rather with the idea that this immigrant might lead him to bigger game; to that end, he works alongside Karpov's lawyer (Rachel McAdams), a prominent banker (Willem Dafoe) and a CIA agent (Robin Wright).

Director Anton Corbijn and scripter Andrew Bovell keep their heads down as they dutifully relate this low-key thriller, but even they can't do anything with a plot twist (ported over from le Carre's novel) that's so thumpingly obvious, it forces the viewer to mark time during the climax waiting for its inevitable appearance (it involves a double-cross by a duplicitous character whose intentions are glaringly obvious from their first scene). Still, the plot intrigues and the cast excels, making this a good bet for alternate summer viewing.

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