Directed by Anton Corbijn
Written by Andrew Bovell, based on the novel by John LeCarre
Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Grigory Dobrygin, Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, Robin Wright

In many ways this is the perfect film to end a career on. It is a dour, depressing, but intelligent story elevated to greatness by the writing and the performance of Hoffman. He looks ill, bloated, flushed and gray all at the same time. Yet this seems to suit, Gunther Bachman, a German intelligence officer, very well. How could it be otherwise in the unromantic, unglamorous spy world of John LeCarre. It is little gray pencil pushers that get the job done—only to be swept aside by the flashier U.S. agents.

A tortured Turkish prisoner escapes and flees to Hamburg. He is the son of a Russian general and a Chechen woman and he is in Hamburg to claim his father’s fortune. No one knows what Issa’s true purpose is: is he a terrorist? Bachman’s a patient man and willing to take his time in finding this out. Of course, other parties are not as tolerant of delay.

This is a film that seems clunky at times, struggling to find some excitement in what is often a stolid plot. On the other hand, it is lucid and true to its source. This is what spying is like, Le Carre has told us for forty years.
The last twenty minutes offers most of the thrills as you begin to fathom what’s going to happen. You get the feeling Gunther knew this all along-knew who his demons were as Hoffman knew his. Highly recommended.

Patti Abbott