Thinking Aloud: “A Most Wanted Man”

Apr. 1, 2015 by Darius

I recently saw A Most Wanted Man.  It was an entertaining movie and took a more nuanced view of the world, and especially of the War on Terror, than most Hollywood products.

In Hamburg, a city known in the intelligence community as the location Mohammed Atta used to plan the 9/11 attacks, a brutalized Chechen man arrives via illegal immigration networks.  In Hamburg, he makes contact with a banker to recover the fortune his father, a Russian military officer, made through crime in Chechnya and stashed in a German bank.  However, the Chechen wants nothing more than to make a clean break with his father’s crimes.

At the same time, a German intelligence officer (played by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) is trying to track down the Chechen for a plan of his own, using, as Hoffman’s character puts it, a minnow to catch a barracuda and using the barracuda to catch a shark.  But how long will he have to run his operation before his bosses or the CIA step in with plans of their own?

One of my favorite bits of dialogue: “Hamburg is one of the great ports of the world, Tommy.  For centuries it opened its arms to every foreigner who washed up on its shores. Now, since 9/11, in the eyes of every dark-skinned man we see someone who wants to kill us.  Problem is some of them do.”

A Most Wanted Man is based on a John Le Carré novel and, as is often the case with books from non-American authors, the US is portrayed not just as the elephant in the room but as the bull in a china shop, charging around breaking things without regard for their delicacy, cost, or ability to be replaced.  Hmm.

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