“And all that damage we leave behind. All those lives. All those empty rooms. What were they even for? You have asked yourself that question? Why we do what we do?”
Adapted from a John le Carré novel inspired by the abduction and rendition from Germany of the innocent Murat Kurnaz, this is an old-fashioned slow burn thriller that could be criticised for its meandering nature were its explosive conclusion not so purposive and memorable. A Most Wanted Man is obliquely critical of American foreign policy and overreach, whilst exploring the moral conflicts on a personal level for both those in the intelligence services and those who cooperate with them. One of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final films, released shortly after his death, he delivers a powerful central performance as an agent doggedly pursuing a terrorist financier whilst trying to protect his investigation from intervention by the local police or the USA. The focal point is a Chechnian fugutive who might be a refugee or a terrorist, an angle that remains relevant a decade later as refugees continue to be treated with suspicion. Rachel McAdams provides the counterpoint as a lawyer aiding the dispossessed, with Willem Dafoe the neutral banker caught unwillingly in the middle, though the film’s coldly clinical perspective limits our connection with any of the characters. A Most Wanted Man lacks the flair and intrigue of Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy — for me the quintessential Le Carré adaptation — but it asks more pressing political questions.
Political thriller State of Play deserves credit foremost for successfully trimming down a five-hour BBC miniseries into a coherent two-hour film. The result is dense with exposition and can feel rushed, but that also adds to a sense of urgency. The investigative journalist perspective now feels almost nostalgic, reminiscent of All The President’s Men. A high calibre cast compensates for a lack of character development, and I wish Helen Mirren’s editor had more screen time. Whilst the interplay between The Globe’s ailing print edition and rising online presence is already antiquated a decade on, the lucrative domestic expansion of military contractors remains just as relevant.
“Any other team wins the World Series, good for them. They’re drinking champagne, they get a ring. But if we win, on our budget, with this team… we’ll have changed the game. And that’s what I want. I want it to mean something.”
Billy Beane, General Manager of Oakland Athletic, bucks tradition by adopting statistical analysis to identify undervalued players to fill his team’s roster on a limited budget. Despite being based on a true story, we are given relatively little insight into the statistical philosophy behind “Moneyball”. There is plenty here to enjoy for those uninterested in baseball, but it is clearly designed to resonate more with fans of the game, with significant time dedicated to reliving Oakland Athletic’s winning streak. The film then meanders, uncertain how to conclude, and feels overlong as a result.