I spent a lot of the most sinister moments in A Most Wanted Man thinking “That’s not Lena Headey, but if it’s not, who the hell is it?” Robin Wright, it turns out, with dark hair and the Lady McBeth vibe from House of Cards turned way past 11. She’s the face of the Feds, and the Feds are not the good guys. The Feds are not the good guys in a movie about muslim maybe-terrorists and the German secret police, but then again this is an adaptation of a John Le Carre book, and he’s never been a cheerleader for the USA.
A couple of years back I watched Anton Corbijn’s The American. A Most Wanted Man seems to have been made as a reaction to reviews that called it too restrained. The American’s mostly a mood piece with no serious action and you could count the gunshots on your fingers. You can count the gunshots in A Most Wanted Man on George W Bush’s braincells. "The American not action-y enough? I wasn’t even trying there."
So, don’t go if your action reserves are depleted. This is a movie entirely about brooding silence and character moments. I think I’ve used more words so far in this post than the script gives the wanted man of the title. And most of the rest of the cast are only slightly more chatty. Philip Seymour Hoffman more or less owns the movie and gets more dialogue than everyone else put together, but even he does more brooding than talking (the last two or three minutes of the movie are entirely wordless). Corbijn needed good actors for what he wanted to do, and he got them. Of course, he got some of them from Hollywood so everyone goes through the movie either speaking English with foreign accents or occasionally being subtitled; I have no idea what the policy was, other than the usual one of wanting to sell the movie in America and no frightening them off by getting an actual German to play your German secret policeman. Sure Hoffman is great, as when was he not, but Christoph Waltz or Bruno Ganz would have been just as good and just as recognisable and they could have spoken German.