STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The novels of John le Carre have been reliable sources of compelling cinema from "the Spy Who Came in From the Cold," - great movie - through "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" - another great movie. MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan says "A Most Wanted Man," taken from the 2008 novel is a worthy addition.
KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: The last we see of Philip Seymour Hoffman in "A Most Wanted Man" - he's leaving his car and walking out of the frame. As it tragically turned out, he was exiting his acting career, as well. This involving thriller was the actor's final starring role. It's a fitting film to be Hoffman's last, not only because it's expertly done, but because his role was so challenging. Hoffman was a brilliant chameleon - a hefty man who won an Oscar for convincing us he was elfin Truman Capote. But making us believe he was Gunther Bachmann, a German intelligence officer trying to do the right thing in a dirty world had to be one of his most demanding performances. Bachmann is the rumpled harried head of a German anti-terrorism unit not many people know about and even less like. The actor disappears deeply inside Bachmann, managing to be simultaneously disheveled and determined - a harsh interrogator and a warm paternal figure. Here, he's trying to convince a young lawyer to turn over a client she's protecting.
PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN: (As Gunther Bachmann) Your choice is between us and nobody. The clock is ticking. You know they'll find him, and when they do, he'll be on the first plane back to Russia unless the Americans want him dead. We won't know where he is and nor will he.
TURAN: Bachmann's miscalculations have cost them in the past, and he knows he lives in a world where betrayal is inevitable. It's not a question of if it will happen but when. Yet, this pessimistic operative is also an idealist, someone who gets personally involved. We should take care, all of us, he warns his team, but how much vigilance is enough? See this crackerjack thriller, at once brooding claustrophobic and unbearably tense, and find out.
INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the L.A. Times.
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