A Most Wanted Man (Blu-ray Review)

unnamed“The author behind Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and the director of The American have joined forces to seemingly put together the most deliberately paced, convoluted spy thriller since those two films I just mentioned for A Most Wanted Man.”  That is one way to sum up this espionage-drama based on John le Carre’s novel, but it will of course get far more credit for being the last film featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman in a lead performance.  A Most Wanted Man works because of this Hoffman performance (among other reasons), as the man is as stellar as ever.  The film may only accomplish so much, but it is smart and crafty in its construction from both a filmmaking and script standpoint.  The Blu-ray also manages to deliver a fine technical presentation.


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Hoffman stars as Gunther Bachmann, an agent in German intelligence.  He finds himself tasked with an assignment to prove whether or not a mysterious man is or is not a terrorist.  There are reasons why Bachmann has such suspicions, and it leads to him involving several of big players in all of this.  Rachel McAdams co-stars as Annabel Richter, an immigration lawyer looking to help out the mystery man, Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin).  Willem Dafoe is Tommy Brue, a banker who has laundered money for Karpov’s father.  Lastly, Robin Wright is Martha Sullivan, an American diplomatic attache, who also has interest in this assignment.  All will do what they can to achieve their goals, which will lead to conspiring to gain the upper hand in various ways.

While many players enter this film, it is not entirely too dense with story.  Really, the film basically has two major plotlines, with shared characters between them.  Having Anton Corbijn in the director’s chair essentially means that the film will approach both with a steady handedness that may slow the film to a crawl for certain audiences, but does its best to explain itself throughout.  It is not a showy film in the traditional sense, but it is meticulously crafted, with strong, but underplayed performances (and lots of accents) seen throughout.

I already mentioned Hoffman and how strong he is/was as an actor.  It is unfortunate that we only have a couple more times to see his work on the big screen, but the man was a fantastic performer.  In this film we watch Hoffman truly underplay his role, which Hoffman has done before, along with providing much larger/broader performances.  A Most Wanted Man is very suited to this smaller type of performance, which culminates in a perfect release, given how everything plays out.  I would not say I need to see a posthumous Oscar nomination for this role, but Hoffman easily nails this performance in a way that made me miss him already, once the credits started to roll.

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Yes, I have made this mostly about Hoffman so far, but the rest of the film is pretty good as well.  While McAdams seems to slightly struggle with the accent at times, the cast is uniformly solid in this film.  While the story may not quite nail the sense of urgency needed to perhaps make A Most Wanted Man more thrilling, enough is done to keep it engaging for those in the mood for an old school, action-free spy film.  The look and sound of this film is great too, which I will get to in the tech specs, but should be noted here, as Corbijn’s level of control in his previous films, like Control and The American certainly shows up here as well.  The film is deliberate in its style, which may slow down the pace, but puts emphasis on music usage and the visuals, which show off the city of Hamburg in nice detail.

A Most Wanted Man may not be as thoroughly thought-provoking or as involved as something like the much better Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but it is well-done for the most part, with some strong performances, which most importantly includes Philip Seymour Hoffman.  For those who enjoy these sort of old school thrillers, there is certainly a worthy film to check out here.


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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Clarity/Detail: From the start, we get a great sense that the clarity will be quite apparent, given the close-up on, of all things, a dirty river and an accompanying wall.  You can see the little details in the water and in this grimy wall, lit by nighttime lighting.  Shot digitally, the film does a fine job of showing off various aspects of the feature in various lighting conditions.  It is quite effective.

Depth: There is substantial depth of field in various shots taking place within the city.

Black Levels: Blacks are nice, sharp, and inky.

Color Reproduction: While there is a saturated sort of look to the film, it does mostly work in the various colors quite well, with an emphasis on blues and yellows (depending on the setting).  Nighttime scenes provide for interesting color use as well.

Flesh Tones: Facial textures and skin tones have a nice consistent look seen throughout.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.



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Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-DH Master Audio, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio

Subtitles: English, Spanish

Dynamics: This is a very dialogue heavy film, though the score does work its way in often enough to show off the range present in this film and the Blu-ray’s lossless audio track does a fine job to balance all of these aspects.

Low Frequency Extension: Moments have this channel enhance the film effectively enough.

Surround Sound Presentation: The film is actually quite atmospheric, which is a good way of saying that the various channels are all balanced well, even as dialogue keeps things mostly front and center.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is center-focused and clear.



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As this film did not receive much fanfare theatrically, I am not surprised at the lack of features, I guess.  Still, it would have been nice to see more than just a couple featurettes.

Features Include:

  • The Making of A Most Wanted Man (HD, 16:09) – This feature stitches together a number of EPK pieces.  It has some good interview segments with Hoffman and the rest of the cast and crew, but is hardly comprehensive.
  • Spymaster: John le Carre in Hamburg (HD, 9:32) – I wish this was a whole hour, as the author has so much to say, as far as interesting stories and how he can relate them to modern society.  Still, this was at least an interesting, albeit brief, feature to watch.
  • Trailers
  • UltraViolet copy of the Film


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As I said, A Most Wanted Man is for those seeking out an old school spy thriller.  It has twists and turns, but not in a modern action/thriller sort of way.  The film is careful in how it reveals itself, with strong performances backing it up.  The Blu-ray is solid in terms of its technical presentation, though leaves a lot to be desired in the extras department.  Fans of this genre and Hoffman should most certainly check it out.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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