Had it been released a year ago, nobody would have taken notice of A Most Wanted Man, a gratingly bland espionage thriller set in post-9/11 Hamburg. But director Anton Corbijn's thriller happens to be the last dramatic performance by the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman is fantastic, of course, as German spook Günther, the chain-smoking, whiskey-quaffing leader of an off-the-books and highly unorthodox counterterrorism unit. Hoping to ensnare a seemingly peaceful religious leader, he sets his sights on a Chechen Muslim named Issa (Grigoriy Dobrygin). The quiet, unassuming Issa is an ex-con who has enlisted a peppy lawyer and a banker (Rachel McAdams and Willem Dafoe, both struggling with accents) to help him find asylum and acquire his war-criminal father's fortune. With the story based on a John le Carré novel, you'd be forgiven for expecting a twisty, labyrinthine thriller akin to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. But A Most Wanted Man has fewer unexpected turns than the Autobahn. It consists almost entirely of scenes of Hoffman bumping heads with bureaucrats, and of Issa hanging out silently in safe houses, praying or making paper airplanes. Movies like The Insider have proved that thrillers don't need violence to sustain suspense. A Most Wanted Man, however, is simply stagnant. Perhaps it accurately conveys the more mundane side of the war on terror, but that doesn't make for an entertaining film. Aside from seeing Hoffman's penultimate role—the next Hunger Games film will be his last turn onscreen—there's little of interest in this snoozer.
Critic's Grade: C-
SEE IT: A Most Wanted Man is rated R. It opens Friday at City Center, Fox Tower, Cedar Hills, Bridgeport, Clackamas.