In the Dark

Between the Idea and the Reality

A Most Wanted Man
Produced by The Ink Factory and Film 4
Directed by Anton Corbijn
Screenplay by Andrew Bovell from John Le Carre’s novel
Distributed by Roadside Attractions

John Le Carre has made a career of demonstrating that intelligence agencies are fundamentally untrustworthy.  The very nature of their work, he suggests, makes them prone to blinkered paranoia if not flat-out madness, not to mention monstrous cruelty.  Consider the surprisingly faithful film adaptation of his 20th novel, A Most Wanted Man.  It centers on a plan to ensnare Muslims suspected of aiding the cause of jihadism in Europe.

As Le Carre has done before, he makes the case that the plan, though virtuously devised, necessarily runs the risk of inflicting grave human cost when implemented.  This has been Le Carre’s central theme since he began writing about Cold War espionage in the early 1960’s.  People, convinced of their irreproachable motives, can and often do cause enormous suffering.  British Military Intelligence operative Alec Leamas learns this in Le Carre’s third novel, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.  Leamas’s own superior uses him as a pawn in an elaborate game designed to sacrifice Fiedler, a relatively honorable East German intelligence officer, in order to protect his monstrous superior, Karl Mundt,...

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