A Most Wanted Man (Anton Corbijn, 2014). OK spy story based on a le Carré novel, which isn’t exactly unique. This one will be remembered as the one where Philip Seymour Hoffman died a week after its release, giving the entire enterprise an extra dose of the elegiac. Hoffman is the main reason to see this movie. One reason he rarely appeared in a bad movie is because his presence raised the quality of the film. (For me, the only stinker I’ve seen is Synecdoche, New York. And I will forever have a soft spot in my heart for his Lester Bangs in Almost Famous.) Funny thing is, I watched this because someone else was in it: Daniel Brühl, who was featured on the Criticker website. But Brühl has little to do in this movie. Ultimately, A Most Wanted Man is a run-of-the-mill le Carré movie, lifted, of course, by the presence of Hoffman. 6/10.
Fear (Roberto Rossellini, 1954). The last of six films Ingrid Bergman made with Rossellini before their divorce. Some would say that the movie’s plot, about the ramifications when a woman cheats on her husband, reflects on real-life turmoil between the couple, but I’m not so sure ... it’s not exactly In a Lonely Place or Lady from Shanghai. It’s interesting that those are both examples of film noir, for Fear draws on some of the genre’s tropes. It often looks like a noir, and the plot certainly fits. The biggest difference, I suppose, is that Ingrid Bergman is not a femme fatale. Her character is the closest thing in the movie to a sympathetic character ... perhaps too sympathetic, she doesn’t seem to fully be a part of the noir universe. The plot twists are not predictable (or they wouldn’t be twists), but they clearly exist only to liven up the screenplay. There are some interesting things going on ... you could put together a ten-minute video essay noting those efforts ... but the film feels long even at just over 80 minutes, and the happy ending is neither deserved nor satisfying. 6/10.