A Chechen Muslim illegally immigrates to Hamburg, where he gets caught in the international war on terror.A Chechen Muslim illegally immigrates to Hamburg, where he gets caught in the international war on terror.A Chechen Muslim illegally immigrates to Hamburg, where he gets caught in the international war on terror.
Before anyone gets mad: I am well aware that this is Philip-Seymour Hoffman's last completed film - which was actually the reason for me to go see it. And he is good. PSH-good. Meaning, by the standards of most other actors he is GREAT, but by PSH-standards its a pretty run-of-the- mill role that does not call for a great performance and Hoffman plays it like that: A neat little movie experience in Germany that came along and that he probably did not take too seriously, obviously not suspecting that it would be his final starring role. And he does well when you compare it to Willem Dafoe's performance, which he apparently took very seriously. At times Dafoe seems to hinge on the verge of overacting, at least when compared to the other actors and his surroundings.
But the real trouble, as I said, is the story. It starts out as an espionage thriller focusing on the question whether Issa, a Chechen Muslim having entered Germany illegally, has come as a terrorist and is planning on meeting fundamentalists or other radical elements and maybe blow something up. Slowly the focus then shifts without ever clarifying that Bachmann (Hoffman) and his team no longer suspect Issa to be dangerous, but somehow they start acting like they have come to that conclusion. The focus keeps shifting and in the end you realize the movie was about something totally different all along which it didn't stress. Because it is something that Bachmann would have had to stress and he is not the kind of character who goes on tantrums over things, so it is realistic but makes the storyline seem a little crooked.
Add to that that around the middle the team decides for a course of action that seems drastic at first but then ends up slowing the entire movie down a bit. For about ten to twenty minutes the whole premise just seems to float and not go anywhere. I felt bored for a while before the pace picked up again.
As a last concern: Rachel McAdams just doesn't belong here. This is not really a critique of her or her acting talents which are fine. But while everybody else looks like the characters they play, she just looks like a Hollywood starlet who came to spice up an independent movie with some glamor. Which is completely out of place. It doesn't help that we all but never see her character, who is supposed to be a lawyer, do anything lawyerly other than speak to Dafoe's rich banker on her client's behalf. She is just an alien in this world of low-life agents and bureaucrats.
What we end up with is a pretty okay movie with some great photography and interesting themes that are, however, not told all that stringently. But if you came to enjoy Hoffman's last performance, you will get your opportunity to enjoy, even if it isn't his most outstanding work. It still shows that the man was a genius on screen.
By the way: If you see this with someone from Germany, prepare that they start giggling when they see "Michael", a government employee aiding Bachmann: The actor is Herbert Grönemeyer, a well-known and often ridiculed pop-singer in Germany who very rarely acts in movies. Germans are primed to laugh at him trying to act (as few remember his pretty well-done starring role in classic "Das Boot").
- Oct 5, 2014