A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Most Wanted Man is a spy drama based on a novel by John Le Carre (The Constant Gardener, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy). It's also one of the final films of the late, great actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. A woman is abducted and imprisoned by the good guys, who need her help in catching a bad guy. Characters are also violently arrested, and there's a car crash. A character describes how his mother was raped at age 15 and died during childbirth. Language is infrequent but does include several uses of "f--k." Two characters pretend to kiss to avoid being spotted, and some scenes take place in a "red light" district with sex shops shown in the background. The main character drinks and smokes in several scenes, though he never appears to have a dependency problem. Though the material overall isn't terribly edgy, the movie is slow and thoughtful and isn't likely to have wide teen appeal.
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What's the story?
Burned-out German intelligence officer Gunter Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman) works in Hamburg, Germany, where the 9/11 attacks were planned. A young half-Chechen, half-Russian immigrant, Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin) -- a possible ex-jihadist -- turns up, sending Bachmann's people on high alert. Human rights attorney Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams) plans to secure Karpov a multi-million euro inheritance from his father. Bachmann enlists the help of Richter and of banker Tommy Brue (Willem Dafoe) and -- using Karpov as bait -- hopes to catch a much bigger fish: a respected philanthropist who's suspected of using a shipping company to finance terrorist activity. But Bachmann's clueless bosses are beginning to lose patience.
Is it any good?
With controlled, restrained filmmaking that allows for mood-enhancing moments, former music video maker Anton Corbijn (Control, The American) is the right man for this John Le Carre-based thriller. With a strong screenplay by Andrew Bovell, Corbijn's highly intelligent A MOST WANTED MAN is patient with its details, uses urban locations to gloomy effect, and revels in soft-spoken, spring-loaded conversations. But it's all centered around one great character, Gunter Bachmann.
As played by the late Hoffman in one of his finest performances, Bachmann is always fascinating (never mind that Hoffman conjures up an impressive German accent). He's great at his job but feels like a second-class citizen due to past mistakes. He drinks and smokes and carries himself in a way that feels caught between success and failure. Corbijn confidently keeps the balance between the larger cat-and-mouse game and Bachmann's own, personal risk; the movie's final moment may haunt you for some time.
Talk to your kids about ...
How violent or fast-moving is A Most Wanted Man? How does it compare to other spy movies you may have seen? Does its slow pace make it seem boring? More exciting? Smarter?
What sacrifices are made in this movie for a greater good? Did it seem like a wise choice?
- In theaters: July 25, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: November 4, 2014
- Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe
- Director: Anton Corbijn
- Studios: Lionsgate, Roadside Attractions
- Genre: Thriller
- Topics: Book Characters
- Run time: 121 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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