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Here is my understanding of the end of A Most Wanted Man:

  1. the German agents led by Philip Seymour Hoffman's character Gunther set up a sting operation to film Abdullah breaking the law, with the goal of forcing Abdullah to give them information about who he is working for
  2. the agents succeed in filming Abdullah breaking the law
  3. right when Hoffman's character is about to take Abdullah into custody, agents from another German agency (who are working with the Americans) interrupt and take away Abdullah as well as Issa, whose money was the bait used to get Abdullah to break the law.


A. Is my summary accurate?

B. How did the goals of the other Germans/Americans differ from Gunther's goals? Weren't they all trying to stop terrorists? Why would Gunther be interrupted right when his plan seemed to be working?

C. Had the other Germans and the Americans been tricking Gunther the whole time, always intending to take over in the end? Or did his operation take too long so they intervened?

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I think I agree with the above…but it was truly confusing!! – user12933 Jul 28 '14 at 0:02
I love how the question has been viewed over 1000 times and still no likes... something about that fits perfectly with this particular movie. – Shiz Z. Aug 15 '14 at 19:20
@ShizZ. 14,000 views and only 1 like. – Viziionary Nov 15 '14 at 8:56
I think that viewers come from Google and almost nobody has an account on this particular site. – Sebastián Grignoli Dec 27 '14 at 5:24
In the book Abdullah and Issa are abducted by Americans who just do what they want in Germany. – Martin Schröder Apr 10 at 22:41

6 Answers 6

up vote 5 down vote accepted
  1. yes
  2. Gunther taking Muhammad into custody would have been just the beginning. Muhammad was a barracuda and now in the hands of the Germans/Americans he may end up in Guantanamo or somewhere where he will remain silent likely. Now Gunther's network is done. Muhammad funds terrorists, but he is just the tip of the iceberg. As PSH stated in the movie (paraphrasing) "You get rid of him, then you will just be knocking on doors in the dark"
  3. i would say the latter
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I just saw this movie. My take was that Robin Wright's character was tricking PSH's character all along. Notice how she conceded that the American's had really been at fault in Beirut. I think that was just to gain his trust.

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Yes, I think a key part of the story is she lies to and uses him. – Shiz Z. Nov 7 '14 at 16:38

First of all, you deciphered the situation quite correctly. Now why would the German and American governments betray Günther? It is true that they basically all share a common motivation, that is to counter terrorism and "make the world a safer place", but their means largely differ.

As Günther says himself, his group largely operates in a legal grey area and also with not much funding or backing from the government. This is why they have to rely on a network of informants and actual street work to get their information and achieve their goals. And this is also why Günther values and cares for his informants and tries to keep his promises, without his informants he can't do his job. He is somehow a spy of the old school, relying on defectors and double agents rather than brute force. And he has the larger picture in mind. He knows that Abdullah alone isn't worth much, let alone Issa who I think Günther was genuinely convinced to be totally innocent. He also says, that he believes in the soft methods of convincing people rather than just torturing them. So for him capturing those two is pretty useless. He'd rather want to convince Abdullah to actively work for him, a method that he has put to great success during the rest of the movie, all his achievements were reached because people directly worked for him (even if not always entirely out of conviction but also out of pressure).

The government on the other hand is in contrast depicted as largely bureaucratic. They want results and they want them fast. And they don't seem to make a big difference between capturing a small fish, like Issa who didn't even know anything contributory, and actually achieving a bigger result. This is not only demonstrated when they capture Abdullah, possibly trying to torture him for information, even though he probably doesn't know that much directly and won't be of much use. It is already demonstrated when Mohr wants to capture Issa as soon as he arrives and when Abdullah isn't even in consideration yet. All Mohr cares about is that Issa doesn't "plant a bomb" in his city and that everything goes strictly by law. He doesn't want a supposed terrorist run around freely, even if he is of greater use. The same goes for Sullivan and the Americans, they want Abdullah and his dangerous weapon business out of the way, disregarding if someone else will just take his place. They all don't have much trust in Günther's soft methods either. Those bureaucrats just want to get fast successes, no matter how small they are or if the invalidate further advances. So they just didn't even care that Günther's plan succeeded, they only wanted to sack Issa and Abdullah as a safe bet, the rest of the problems can be solved another day.

Now it is not entirely unambiguous to say if they intended to betray Günther all the time. But especially given Mohr's depiction and his aversion to Günther's methods throughout the whole movie, it's safe to say he never was a big fan of his plans. Now ambassador Sullivan was bit more nebulous, but I would also say she was largely just playing Günther all the time. Even if not with too much hard proof I would say yes, they never had much interest in Günther's plan at all. If the operation really took too long, then they could only be happy about that as it gives them an easy out excuse for their actions, but I doubt they ever had any genuine interest in its success.

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They gave him 72 hours to get his man. They kept showing the clock. When 72 hours were up, they intervened. He was about ten minutes too late.

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If what you're saying is true, the movie really did not get through to me, because I have no recollection of time being communicated to the viewer via clocks or anything else. And only vague recollection of the 72 hours being mentioned. And no recollection of explanation why Security Agency A would ruin Agency B's mission because something is 10 minutes late. Argh! – Shiz Z. Jul 31 '14 at 19:14

I think Gunther was in on the plan at the end. The plan that the Americans and germans would take him. My reasoning? It was a cover so his team would not know Gunther gave him up.

Next he only drove a couple of blocks after the double cross got out of his car and started walking, almost as if he was being picked up by someone.

It seemed to me he was in on it.

Big P

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I think the banker gave the details away to the American girl. She simply swooped in and kidnapped him from PSH.

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Why do you think this? – Crow T Robot Aug 16 '14 at 17:57

protected by Community Aug 27 '14 at 4:00

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