The American Review
Steven's Rating: 7/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 7.0/10
(2 reviews total)
Most “one last job” movies are high-energy action flicks or thrillers driven by a veteran actor playing a character with a troubling back story, but Anton Corbijn’s The American
operates as a character-driven mood piece, a precise and quiet visual portrayal of a man trying to quit his dangerous profession who is constantly haunted and pervasively paranoid.
Way different from the Clooney-led spy thrillers of the ’90s, The American broods and ruminates under the Corbijn’s precise visual style. Those expecting Clooney’s return to suave criminal mastery will find themselves waiting and waiting for this film to pop. It doesn’t. There is no mêlée of Bourne-style assassin-chasing amid the hillside towns of the Italian countryside, so for many, shots of Clooney doing push-ups and putting together a rifle will become tedious.
But The American doesn’t languish quite as much as it might seem, though it certainly does at times. After a jarring opening sequence in Sweden when Clooney’s character Jack realizes he’s being targeted, Jack quietly makes his way to Rome and then Abruzzo, where a job awaits him even though he’s clearly ready to quit and he’s still shaken from Sweden. Shots of him maneuvering the gorgeous countryside ensue as well as aforementioned exercise. In a town in the Abruzzo area, he meets Mathilde, his client, for whom he will build a custom rifle as that’s his line of work. In the process, he becomes close with a gorgeous prostitute named Clara (Violante Placido) and comes to believe he’s being pursued by the Swedes, causing paranoia to engross him.
Corbijn, who directed the 2007 black-and-white biopic Control about the short life of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis, possesses a calculated and engaging visual style. His shots are ideally framed and pull our eye everywhere it needs to go. Considering dialogue is sparse, the ability for a scene to say a lot without saying anything is crucial and Corbijn does just that. He also plays well off audience expectation for this genre and twists the story in fresh and interesting ways.
Corbijn and Clooney are clearly on the same page, even if it means the film puts too much emphasis on the non-verbal and the dauntingly slow build-up to the climax. As much as the emphasis is tone, tone and tone, we come to understand Jack (who later decides he’s Edward) extremely well and see his conflict between sticking to his sinful nature as a means to survive and just letting it all go because it bottles him up inside. You can critique the method all you like and complain about the film’s choice to lean towards drama instead of action, but Corbijn possesses a good measure of talent and The American will leave a profound impression.
Directed by Anton Corbijn
Written by Rowan Joffe, Martin Booth (novel)
Starring: George Clooney, Violante Placido, Thekla Reuten, Paolo Bonacelli
Other Player Affinity Reviews
"The opening scene of The American
had its hooks in me immediately and rarely loosened its hold for the rest of this tense, but ultimately intimate character study. It was clear that this was not going to be a typical “hitman” movie, even if the bones and ultimate arc remained familiar. George Clooney plays the haunted hitman Jack as he hides out in a small Italian town after a job goes wrong. While there, he takes on a simple last job: to deliver a custom rifle to a client. In the films best scene, Jack creates a custom silencer for his product and the entire sequence is mesmerizing. This is not your Jason Bourne, jump-from-rooftops, blast-away-with-an-Uzi assassin movie: bullets count, kill and people remain human in The American
. Due to mis-marketing around the time of the film's release, many were thrown off by the lack of “action,” but at a slim running time and with more than enough superb short bursts of excitement, The American
is subdued, but nothing short of entertaining." Rating: 7/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 7.0/10