Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
United Kingdom/USA/Germany, 2014. Lionsgate, Film4, Demarest Films, FilmNation Entertainment, Senator Film Produktion, Potboiler Productions, The Ink Factory, Amusement Park Films. Screenplay by Andrew Bovell, based on the novel by John Le Carre. Cinematography by Benoit Delhomme. Produced by Andrea Calderwood, Simon Cornwell, Stephen Cornwell, Gail Egan, Malte Grunert. Music by Herbert Grönemeyer. Production Design by Sebastian T. Krawinkel. Costume Design by Nicole Fischnaller. Film Editing by Claire Simpson.
Another John Le Carre adaptation, which we recognize as being his because the spies can’t enjoy their coffee and their clothing is never ironed, but better executed and far more exciting than the lesser versions of his works (I’m looking at you, Tailor of Panama). Philip Seymour Hoffman ably heads a terrific cast as a German intelligence officer in Hamburg who is nervous about possible terrorist activity when a half-Chechen, half-Russian man enters the city having escaped prison in his own country. The subject immediately hires a sympathetic human rights lawyer (Rachel McAdams doing a fine job) to help him access a huge fortune that was willed to him by his late father, an inhumane Russian army bigwig with a very negative profile, which Hoffman sees as possibly connected with the goings-on of a respected Muslim philanthropist and academic who might also be funding violent attacks in Europe.
The clock ticks and the players get nervous as Hoffman has to get tough on the smaller fish (like McAdams) to get the bigger ones, while the watchful eye of American security officials in the form of Robin Wright, swathed in calm confidence but alert with post-9/11 paranoia, are constantly checking in on him. It’s not as obscure as Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy but not as flat as the somewhat similar non-Le Carre State of Play; excellent performances and smooth direction combine to make a fine, intelligent political thriller that shows off all elements to an impressive degree.