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Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Thin-textured, minimally engaging spy yarn from John le Carré trails a stateless Chechen Muslim on the run in Hamburg, Germany where he’s gone to claim an inheritance. The size of the legacy and questions of possible terrorist connections bring out multiple government security agencies, the usual state & international groups, each vying to work the case in their own way. Philip Seymour Hoffman, in one of his last roles, heads the least powerful but most sophisticated of the lot, a small, under-the-radar outfit that tries to play fair with its suspects, hoping to facilitate a connection (or a cash flow) that will lead to a follow-up target. Internecine politics between the spy organizations hold all the interest here, but they get far less screen time than the ordinary cat-and-mouse games of follow the suspect/follow the money. Director Anton Corbijn, of George Clooney’s similarly damp THE AMERICAN/’10, hardly a dab hand in the suspense department, pulls together a very uneven cast; the women largely miscast, the men painfully underused. (What on earth is rising star Daniel Brühl doing in this throwaway role?) But you do get another chance to watch Hoffman put a part together. Fat to the point of being hobbled, he tries out a neat Euro-accent between constant smokes & whisky. Run a scene over with your eyes closed to concentrate on the vocal. He’s using an Anthony Hopkins voice (with a touch of Hopkins’ noted imitation of Richard Burton) as the beginning point to build up his character. After that, it’s all some sort of magic in his head.

DOUBLE-BILL: In the Bill Nighy spy-mini WORRICKER: TURKS & CAICOS/'14, writer/director David Hare shares similar concerns, similar political sympathies and an awfully similarly final plot twist with this Carré piece. Just as sleepy, too.

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