A movie to see for reasons beyond the fact that it was Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s last performance. Based on a 2008 John LeCarre novel, mind the setting is Hamburg, here Germany. Hoffman plays Gunther Bachmann, a German intelligence officer with a drinking problem, head of a small outfit operating without official German government authority. Assigned the job of forestalling another September 11 attack, the movie opens with two plotlines: Hoffman’s organization is to trace certain funding by an individual who is running a legitimate non-profit organization but who is also diverting money to terrorist organizations; the second involves an illegal immigrant, Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin), who is identified as Chechen. The storylines intersect after we learn that Issa’s father deposited a significant amount of money with a Hamburg banker. The movie pivots around Issa, who seeks sanctuary. The story unfolds through actions by his lawyer, played by Rachel McAdams, and the banker’s son, Tommy Brue, played superbly by Willem Dafoe. We learn that Gunther does not have a good working relationship with the German authorities and that he is, with cause, distrustful of the Americans. Hoffman is on screen for most of the film’s 121 minutes with a brooding presence. Directed by Anton Corbijn who sets the appropriate tone and mood for what unfolds, the cast is predominately German but the dialogue is in English. Under Corbijn’s direction and with Hoffman’s performance, the narrative is allowed to unfold with the typical subtleties one expects when LeCarre is the source material. In other words, this is not a Tom Cruise film where action rules. Rather, this is a grim narrative with a moral foundation that will hold you to the end. Hoffman gives a fine closing performance.
Steven Guttman, Esq.