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T H E A U S T I N C H R O N I C L E
JULY 25, 2014
a u s t
i n c h r o n
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D: Anton Corbijn; with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Grigoriy Dobrygin, Robin Wright,
Willem Dafoe, Daniel Brühl, Homayoun Ershadi, Nina Hoss, Franz Hartwig. (R, 121 min.)
AMost WantedMan
opens on a battered sea wall. It sits at the
lip of Hamburg, Germany, a port city on
high alert after Mohamed Atta and his co-
conspirators plotted the September 11th
attacks there, undetected by German intel-
ligence officers. In the film’s first minutes,
a Chechen/Russian dual citizen named
Issa (Dobrygin) mounts the sea wall and is
absorbed into Hamburg’s Muslim community,
setting off alarms for an off-the-books team
of spies, led by Günther Bachmann (Hoffman,
in one of his last film performances), who’ve
been tracking Issa’s movements. Issa is the
central daub of paint in a pointillist portrait
of predators and prey: Take 10 steps back,
cock your head to the left, and
maaaaaaybe all the discrete
strokes make sense in wide
focus. As the chain-smoking,
poker-faced Günther lays it out,
“It takes a minnow to catch a
barracuda, and a barracuda to
catch a shark.” Be they spies,
bureaucrats, or Islamic extremists, everybody
has a place in the pecking order, but the film-
makers intentionally obscure precisely who’s
nibbling at whose heels.
Playing it, as ever, close to the chest,
director Anton Corbijn (
Control
,
The
American
) lurches between other points
of interest, and other predators and prey,
played by an international cast. The appar-
ently Herculean effort to sound authentically
German leaches some liveliness from the
Americans’ performances. But Hoffman –
his voice low and slowed to pin that unruly
accent into submission – flips a seeming
disadvantage on its head: A sudden move-
ment or sardonic aside becomes more pre-
cious for its rare break from tight control.
Corbijn gets that the threat of violence in
a movie jangles the nerves more than its
follow-through, and he favors smash cuts
and hard hit-stops on transitional music to
goose the mood into a grim anxiousness.
The overcast look and locations fill out the
job.
A Most Wanted Man
takes place in
sterile offices and grungy bars, surveillance
vans and secret interrogation rooms – places
largely empty of personal effects – so it’s a
shock to the system when, late in the film,
we suddenly see Günther in his own home,
in the sad, wood-paneled bachelor pad of an
underpaid, underappreciated
spy operative. He sits at a
modest upright piano to play a
little, not all that well, but it’s
moving nonetheless, Hoffman’s
stubby, timid fingers and what
insight they give into the soul
of a undemonstrative man.
Corbijn carries over the sounds of
Günther’s unpracticed piano into the next
scene – a crucial scene, in which a trap
is set and all the spy maneuverings come
to a head – and for a moment, I won-
dered if Corbijn had gone soft (you could
hardly fault him; that kind of ribboned-
pretty mournful movie montage works like
gangbusters). Then Corbijn hits stop hard
again. Ten minutes later Hoffman staggers
away from the wreckage, his beautiful bulk,
filmed from behind, dotting the i’s and
crossing the t’s on the film’s thesis state-
ment. Forget divining who’s predator and
who’s prey. Everybody’s chum here.
by kimberley jones
A post-9/11 espionage thriller adapted from
John Le Carré’s 2008 novel,
AMost Wanted Man
Film
listings
july 25-31
new reviews
Alludu Sreenu
D: V. V. Vinayak; with Bellamkonda Sai Sreenivas,
Samantha Ruth Prabhu, Prakash Raj, Brahmanandam.
(NR, 140 min., subtitled)
Not reviewed at press time.
Telugu comedy.
– Marjorie Baumgarten
Tinseltown South
And So It GoeS
D: Rob Reiner; with Michael Douglas, Diane Keaton, Frances
Sternhagen, Sterling Jerins, Austin Lysy, Rob Reiner, Annie
Parisse, Yaya DaCosta, Maurice Jones. (PG-13, 94 min.)
What’s up with Diane Keaton? An acquired
taste – her dithery mannerisms often bewil-
der; she sometimes resembles a caged bird
haplessly flapping its wings – the 68-year-old
actress mostly toils in glossy family dramas
and romantic comedies about people who
exist in a rarefied bubble of upper-middle
class comforts. (It’s the
Better Homes and
Gardens
school of filmmaking.) Frequently,
she plays the wife or mother (or both), thank-
less stock roles seemingly interchangeable
from movie to movie. But Keaton somehow
makes these unremarkable characters
vibrant, lighting them from within through the
sheer force of her personality. She absolutely
shines. This gift may explain why Keaton
continues to work steadily in a fickle industry
unsympathetic to women of a certain age,
though the quality of her films lately leaves
much to be desired. This American original
deserves better. Something’s gotta give.
Keaton’s recent track record doesn’t
improve with the gooey
And So It Goes
, which
pairs her with grumpy old man Michael
Douglas. As a couple, they lack roman-
tic chemistry, but their bickering has its
moments. Keaton’s Leah is a widowed, wan-
nabe lounge singer, who frequently dissolves
into tears midsong and rambles on about her
dead husband’s cancer between numbers. (As
a chanteuse, Keaton is passable; her voice
is a little reedy, but she can sell a Gershwin
tune.) Douglas’ Oren is the rude widower who
lives next door, his uncomplicated life turned
upside down when his estranged son asks
him to care for his daughter while he serves
a short prison sentence. As a human being,
Oren makes no sense. He flips back and
forth between misanthropy and decency as
the mood demands. But the character’s lack
of consistency is nothing compared to the
absence of directorial stewardship here. The
enervated pace is like cinematic sedation; it’s
a wonder the film found the strength to fin-
ish. Certain scenes play as if Reiner forgot to
show up on the day of filming, so the actors
and cameraman just winged it. Perhaps his
embarrassing (and pointless) turn as Leah’s
clueless accompanist with the bad toupee
distracted him from his principal responsibili-
ties behind the camera. What a Meathead.
HH
n
– Steve Davis
Hill Country Galleria, CM Round Rock, Gateway,
iPic, Tinseltown North, Tinseltown South
the FluFFy MovIe
D: Manny Rodriguez, Jay Lavender. (PG-13, 90 min.)
Not reviewed at press time.
This comedy
concert film captures the onstage perfor-
mance and inspirational success story of
Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias.
– Marjorie Baumgarten
Southpark Meadows, Gateway, Tinseltown North,
Tinseltown South
herculeS
D: Brett Ratner; with Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane,
John Hurt, Rufus Sewell. (PG-13, 98 min.)
Not reviewed at press time.
Having com-
pleted his 12 labors, the Greek demigod
Hercules turns his back on the gods and
humanity and becomes a mercenary who’s
hired by the King of Thrace to train his men.
– Marjorie Baumgarten
Alamo Lakeline, Alamo Slaughter Lane, Alamo
Village, Barton Creek Square, CM Cedar Park,
Hill Country Galleria, CM Round Rock, Southpark
Meadows, CM Stone Hill Town Center, Flix
Brewhouse, Highland, Gateway, iPic, Lakeline,
Metropolitan, Tinseltown North, Westgate
I orIGInS
D: Mike Cahill; with Michael Pitt, Brit Marling, Astrid
Bergès-Frisbey, Steven Yeun, Archie Panjabi, Cara Seymour,
Kashish. (R, 107 min.)
The empirical world and the spiritual world
are positioned for a showdown in Mike Cahill’s
I Origins
, but not before reincarnation is also
invited in to spar for a few bonus rounds. In
his follow-up to 2011’s
Another Earth
, writer/
director Cahill shows that he’s still grappling
with the same themes and pseudoscientific
inquiries. Yet
I Origins
, which Cahill wrote alone
(unlike
Another Earth
, which was co-written with
its breakout star Brit Marling, who nevertheless
plays a significant role in
I Origins
), is more plau-
sible and convincing than its predecessor. And
even when plausibility fails,
I Origins
is elegantly
cosseted by its dreamy camerawork (courtesy
of Markus Förderer) and pretty people.
Michael Pitt is cast against type as molecu-
lar biologist Dr. Ian Gray (those eyeglasses
rest on his face with the same kind of serious-
ness panache they bring to Rick Perry). His
field of research is the human eye, and the
search for eyesight’s original molecule. In the
grander scheme of things, Ian believes that
his research will put an end to the notion of
intelligent design and forever prove evolution’s
primacy. Accordingly, Ian is also obsessed with
the human eye and its infinite individuation –
like fingerprints or snowflakes. It’s this obses-
sion that leads him to Sofi (Bergès-Frisbey)
at a NYC costume party, where, by way of
introduction, he asks to photograph her eyes.
Soon, she darts off abruptly, and the only
means Ian has to find her again is through her
eyes and a bit of magical thinking.
Indeed, the warrior scientist rediscovers his
green-eyed Sofi, and for a while they’re bliss-
fully happy, she countering his empiricism with
her mysticism. Meanwhile, back at the lab,
Ian’s assistant Karen (Marling) is forging ahead
with some breakthrough experiments, which
appear to corroborate her boss’ thesis. Then,
just as the characters reach their happiest
point, sudden tragedy strikes and the film cuts
ahead seven years. Now a father and husband,
Ian must grapple again with the old dichoto-
mies between heart and mind. This time it’s
even more personal, more intuitive and experi-
ential. Evidence of the transmigration of souls
may sunder his scientific foundations.
More polished than his debut feature
Another Earth
, Cahill and his brand of human-
ist science fiction are destined to appeal
most to like-minded souls. Empiricists only
need apply if they have a thing for lovely
gamines who speak in foreign-accented
English (and who doesn’t?), as well as a tol-
erance for blatantly metaphorical film titles.
HHH
n
– Marjorie Baumgarten
Arbor
HHHH
recommended
Arbor, Hill Country Galleria,
Violet Crown