Based on a John le Carré novel this movie director by Anton Corbijn (Control, 2007) is a good old fashioned spy movie, indeed it sits well along-side another Le Carré work – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011). Staring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman as Günther Bachmann in one of his last starring roles where he play the head of a specialist counter terrorism unit currently based in Hamburg. Bachmann has a history and many think his posting to Hamburg is a punishment for a mission which went wrong in Beirut, however there is the suggestion that the power-that-be are okay with this rumour as it gives him and his team cover to track down the subject of their efforts.
While Corbijn plays with the various inter-interdepartmental rivalries ( as well as political manoeuvres both within Germany and internationally with the Americans) within which Buchmann must operate he at least has the loyalty of his own team. This helps because a lessor director might have tried to add a level of intrigue, and that would have been bad. Buchmann’s second in command is Irna Lenz (Nina Hoss, Barbara 2012) and works the part well. She is calm and professional against Buchmann’s self-neglect, but the two are different sides of the same coin. It is never clear just how deep the relationship between them goes. One cannot but suspect that there is a deep friendship but their combined professionalism means nothing will happen. Other team members include Maximilian (Daniel Brühl, Rush 2012) who despite almost no script to himself, still manages to make his presence knows.
During his investigations Buchmann and team track an illegal immigrant from Chechnya (Grigoriy Dobrygin, How I Ended This Summer, 2010)who may or may not be a risk. Other departments want to arrest him, but Buchmann uses his connections to keep him free and followed. While this is happening his team are getting close to the money man (Homayoun Ershadi, The Kite Runner, 2007) they are following. On the surface everything looks squeaky clean, but something does not ring true with him.
Then a stroke of luck, it turns out that the Chechen has an interesting past, indeed so does his (now dead) father which brings him into contact with a private banker in Hamburg (Willem Defoe, The Fault In Our Stars, 2014). All of this is arranged through a human rights lawyer, Martha (Robin Wright, The Princess Bride, 1987) working with immigrants The excellence of Hofmann’s Buchmann is exemplified through his polite but yet condescending attitude to the banker, always calling him “Tommy” rather than “Herr Brue”.
As with any spy story there are twists and I don’t want to destroy any of them. Suffice it to say that the story brings you along fully and the acting, not least by Hoffman, Dobrygin, Defoe and Wright carries you along in an understated manner. This movie has a very European feel to it, not just because of cast and location but the lack of gun-play. The tension is psychological rather than purely violent. This works to the extent that when violence comes, it is short and sharp.
**** an excellent piece which will keep anybody over the age of 21 (mature enough not to need all of the cast murdered by half way through) happily engaged and entertained.