GERMANS DON’T SPEAK to each-other in English with a German accent! Unless maybe in English class in Hochschule. Or perhaps if speaking with a Brit or American. Case in point: Daniel Craig does not speak English in a Swedish accent in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. He’s not leaping around yelling “yumpin’ yimminy, yunior” either.
Beyond being a little irksome, the use of a German accent by Philip Seymour Hoffman in his last non-teeny-bopper film (he will appear in the next two Hunger Games films; this movie, I was surprised to find, was shot in September 2012) I found to be very distracting. Normally something like that I can get used to, and eventually I did — but it was a sticking point the entire film through.
One of the reasons for this is that the film begins unclearly. As I walked out of the theater, someone remarked “I’ve never been so lost in a movie in my life.” Well the movie was hardly so complicated — in fact it was very much a simple, even one-dimensional tale. But the use of language and accent in the beginning of the movie is very confusing — we are not immediately sure if Hoffman’s character and his workgroup are all Germans, or a blend of Germans and Americans, or what authority or auspices they are working under.
These matters sort themselves out quickly enough, and we come to realize that Hoffman — and seemingly everyone else in the movie — are indeed speaking German the entire time. Again, the German speech is conveyed by actors speaking English in varying degrees of fake German or more generalized pseudo-European accents. The language problem also prominently manifests itself with a key character, a Chechnyan national of Chechnyan and Russian descent who has illegally entered Hamburg — where most of the movie takes place — and who, rather mysteriously, speaks perfect German (or is it English? No — this is German now) with no accent whatsoever. What a mess.
* * *
Once you get past the language issues of A Most Wanted Man, you are left with a not particularly exciting or compelling spy drama which has a few logic problems. I suppose that notwithstanding the various accents, the performances are all pretty good. And I did find myself fairly well engaged in the story, eventually. About a third to half-way through the movie settles into a nice rhythm and becomes, well, entertaining. But there’s not enough here for me to recommend. Too much character posturing in lieu of plot.
A Most Wanted Man has received a lot of praise, but I think it’s another case of critics becoming confused between what good and not-good movies are. Must be the same critics who heaped praise upon the similarly-themed Zero Dark Thirty. A Most Wanted Man was a much better film, but that’s not saying much. Still, there is something in all the performances — especially Hoffman’s — that endears the movie to me a bit. 5/10