First Sundance Reviews for “A Most Wanted Man”

The first reviews for “A Most Wanted Man” are being released. We made a round-up of reviews in this post as well as some first twitter reactions. The movie premiere yesterday during the Sundance Film Festival but already screened the days before for industry/press.

“Intelligence is both the subject and the approach of Anton Corbijn’s “A Most Wanted Man,” a meticulously plotted, steadily absorbing Hamburg-set drama that casts a cynical yet compassionate eye on the complexities of counterterrorist work in the post-9/11 era […] Starring the Teuton-accented trio of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams and Willem Dafoe, a risky casting decision that ultimately pays off, this decidedly low-pulse endeavor will put off viewers who like their spy thrillers with a bit more oomph, but should court plenty of intrigue among discerning arthouse-goers who see the name “John le Carre” and know what they’re in for.”

“Corbijn (Control, The American) expertly captures the spirit of the author’s writing—a melancholy resignation about the state of the world, a vision of intelligence officers as weary loners disillusioned about the value of their work.”
A.V. Club

“Like all of Corbijn’s work, it is incredibly handsomely produced—the cinematography by Benoit Delhomme (“Lawless,” “The Proposition”) is typically gorgeous—and it has the feel of a tense and moody European caper, but the whole thing feels a bit slight. Not as arty as “The American” or “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” or as soapy and quickly paced as its small screen counterparts, “A Most Wanted Man” is left somewhere in the middle. The finale stings admirably but you can’t help but wonder what happens next week.”

“McAdams sheds her flirty brightness for a suspicious intensity […] A Most Wanted Man is a solid spy film, with a terrific cast of character actors who all bring their A-Game. Its calculated pace may be a little slow for some, but it does contain enough plot, subtext, and ethical dilemmas to be an entirely engaging film for discerning viewers.”

“At the end of the day, A Most Wanted Man is most easily described as Michael Clayton meets Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy […] The film is more engaging than Corbijn’s The American, and makes use of a solid ensemble cast without strutting too much star power. With an ending that feels like a punch to the gut, A Most Wanted Man is thought-provoking, solid drama, painting a grounded picture of real spies that is usually ditched in favor of car chases, explosions and gunshots.”
First Showing

3/5 stars
“[…] Corbijn’s extended cat and mouse game, by contrast, appears to be slightly going through the motions. It trips back and forth around the old familiar scenery. It nudges its protagonists into position. Near the end, just before the trap is sprung, Gunther steps out of a surveillance van, scowls up at the sky and proceeds to light up one last cigarette. He alone appears to be finishing the film exactly as he started.”

“Bovell does a fantastic job of tying every dialogue-driven scene back to the film’s central question: why is any given character doing what they do, and who benefits most? And Corbijn’s eye for character-defining tics makes “A Most Wanted Man” a superior spy thriller. Tertiary characters, like Richter, are still basically stunted (she’s a more complex character in the book, but only relatively). But Hoffman’s Bachmann, the story’s main protagonist, is winningly defined by his bow-legged shuffle and the way he rolls an omnipresent cigarette around his lips. Likewise, Brue is Dafoe’s pursed lips and defeated sagging shoulders, as when his wife dispassionately kisses him goodnight. “A Most Wanted Man” isn’t as propulsive as other recent Le Carre adaptations, but it’s equally compelling.”

3/5 stars
“Director Anton Corbijn’s adaptation of John Le Carré’s terrific novel manages to fix nearly every minor gripe I had with it, yet still somehow manages to be less vital, while still intriguing […] Yet as effective as Corbijn is at building low-key tension surrounding as simple an act as whether someone will sign a document or not, it still feels like we’re missing more of the petty turf wars and chest-puffing that become impediments to—as characters phrase it here, practically with a roll of the eyes—“making the world a safer place.” Every facet of the story on screen is expertly crafted; only the sense of the bigger picture falls ever so slightly short.”
City Weekly

3/5 stars
“The Upside: Strong acting across the board; intelligent, adult thrills.”
Film School Rejects

“This not a conventional thriller, taking a slow-burn approach to its storytelling. Heightened pacing might have helped, but the plot here isn’t as compelling as it should be either.”
Shock Ya

“A Most Wanted Man is certainly not going to uplift audiences, nor is it some fast-paced espionage thriller. But like the best works of le Carré, it takes you on a sly and acerbic trip, full of both triumph and failure.”
Screen Daily

“As their entire missions rests on the most minuscule of actions, Corbijn has crafted a smart, slow-burn thriller, but one that could have used a touch more of the carefully constructed style found in the superior Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.”
The Film Stage

“A Most Wanted Man completely lives in this world and brings it alive through the perfect interpretations, most notably of Philip Seymour Hoffman in top form.”
Golden Globes Blog

“This is Corbijn’s most ambitious project—his debut was the quite fine Ian Curtis biopic Control—and he does an excellent job of provoking steely performances from a large cast. This is some of McAdams’ best work in far too long—tough and compassionate at the same time—and even an old pro like Dafoe seems to be reaching down a little deeper to produce something memorable. A Most Wanted Man may be less flashy in design than Corbijn’s first two films, but in its place is a terrific sense of bitter resignation that seeps through every frame. The spy game hasn’t gotten any more thrilling in the wake of 9/11, only more urgent and tense. And as this movie argues, in such an environment trying to be the good guy may end up meaning precious little at all.”
Paste Magazine

Twitter Reviews

  • @simonsaybrams: “A MOST WANTED MAN: Streamlined Le Carre spy thriller about the impossibility of neat justice/integration. About as good as I had hoped.”
  • @OKBJGM: “a most wanted man – holy mother of george smiley what a great film!”
  • @peterhowellfilm: “A MOST WANTED MAN: PSH aces as unlikely spy guy in Corbijn/le Carré sleuther. Talky, yet smart & tense take on 9/12 terror war. “
  • @colliderfrosty: “Great acting, smart script and restrained direction had me entranced for 2 hours watching A MOST WANTED MAN. Smart adult thriller.”