“The American” is riveting in the most unexciting of ways, but riveting nonetheless. The most recent film that this reminds me of is Polanski’s “Ghost Writer”, which I thought was only okay, but I feel like “The American” was fantastic in its retro-execution (no pun intended). However, this is certainly one film that’s like a fine wine, you certainly need to have the palette in order to appreciate it.
Why you’ll like this:
Slow methodical pacing; great cinematography; excellent acting; character-driven plot
George Clooney plays Jack, an assassin hiding out in Italy waiting for the dirt from his last job to shake itself out while also taking on his final assignment. Posing as a photographer he attempts to keep his presence minimal, after he puts together the weapon for a cooperating hit-man he fully intends to leave behind this life.
This is not an action movie, but oddly, there may actually more bullets fired than words spoken. No prologue, no epilogue and no exposition, everything you need to know is written on Clooney’s face. With such a remarkable lack of information it may be easy to write the acting off as simple furrowing of the brow, but if that’s the case then it’s the best brow furrowing I’ve seen in some time. Clooney is absolutely magnetic, there’s a weighted presence to everything he does on-screen, the life of a hit-man is ripe with regret and solitude. Both of which never goes unnoticed thanks to fantastic pacing, score, cinematography and of course acting.
“The American” was brilliantly shot, making complete use of the Italian backdrop. Not a lot of steadicam usage, instead opting for more classic filmmaking, using set shots allowing people to enter and leave the frame rather than tracking with them. It becomes a very stark contrast in mindset when there’s a transition from peace to danger-mode, really great storytelling through photography.
Why you won’t like this:
Not an action film, no explosions or dead bodies flying everywhere.
A graceful film that never rushes towards anything you cannot predict, in this way it feels like a relic dusted off from an AMC vault. However, if you’re wanting something closer to “Syriana” or “Bourne Identity” then this is the wrong locale to post up for, you may be better catching “Machete” or “The Expendables”, there’s far too much nuance in “The American” to be confused with any of those movies. However, if you’re in the mood for something contemplative, then there are subtle thrills to be enjoyed in “The American”.
4 out of 5 stars.
Starring: George Clooney, Violante Placido, Thekla Reuten
Director: Anton Corbijn
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Running Time: 1 hr. 43 min.
Release Date: September 1, 2010