Spy thriller set in modern day Hamburg and based on John le Carré’s 2008 novel of the same name. Directed by Anton Corbijn, his clinical and perhaps slightly austere artistic approach suits the genre well, as we see both the grubbiest and some of the more upmarket areas of the city feature and we are treated to the same slow, thoughtful and considered build up that was evident in ‘The American’ (10), and indeed seems to reflect the director himself if you’ve ever seen the documentary ‘Anton Corbijn Inside Out’ (12) about his life (he is arguably more famous for the music photography of bands like U2 and Depeche Mode than his movies as of yet).
Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Günther Bachmann, who leads a team of counter terrorist operatives in the city that must evaluate the potential threat of a Russian rebel, one who may have been radicalised through torture and who is seeking to withdraw a huge amount of money bequeathed to him by his father – presenting both funds and human collateral that could potentially be used by all sides in the local and global games of espionage and extremism at play. Robin Wright plays the CIA agent sent to make ‘suggestions’, Willem Dafoe plays the head of the bank holding the funds, and Rachel McAdams plays the idealistic lawyer with good intentions and tight jeans, which again present a dual opportunity for state appropriation.
It’s good, it holds attention throughout and the performances deliver – notably from leading man Hoffman as always, but it never reaches the level of intrigue or intensity of the likes of ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’ (from 2011 and based on le Carré’s 1974 novel), although it has almost definitely been stylistically inspired by that film and it is ultimately a deserving addition to the canon. Look out for the scene with Hoffman and one of his informers on a boat talking about matters of deadly consequence whilst a barrage of seagulls swarm around them squawking noisily in the background. They determinedly carry on and Corbijn keeps the take – it’s a nice touch and shows his dedication to try and create something that feels gritty, but authentically so.