An assassin hides out in a small Italy town on one last job.
This is not as it is advertised… it is not a Bourne or Bond-like film, it is not an action movie. The American is, instead, a breath of fresh air. It is the type of thriller that focuses more on character and natural tension of its story to entertain its audience.
George Clooney is one of my favorite actors and uses his fame and appeal to draw more people to small films like these. Apart from the Ocean’s trilogy, Clooney tends to go for more substance in his films, rather than just working for the most amount of money. The American is a perfect example of this, along with his most personal project Good Night, and Good Luck. This film will not appeal to the masses who look for more Hollywood type movies, full of action and easy entertainment, but are carefully well-made actual films.
Based on the novel “A Very Private Gentleman” by Martin Booth, the film focuses on an assassin Jack (or Edward), played by Clooney, who is hiding out in Italy after his last job went south. While there, he has passing conversations with a local priest (Bonacelli), builds a rifle for a fellow assassin (Reuten), and falls for a local prostitute (Placido).
That is pretty much the movie. The American is a quiet and subtle practice in consistent paranoia and character development. From the fantastic, and somewhat horrifying, opening scene, there is a feeling of paranoia and danger lurking throughout this movie. Director Anton Corbijn (Control) uses his very talented eye for visuals and his natural knack for shooting realism to keep this movie going. The filmmakers force you to study every detail of every scene, letting you take everything in as if you were there yourself.
Clooney is perfect for this role, as he is one of those actors who can hold your attention no matter what they are doing on screen. His chemistry with the beautiful Violante Placido is hard to ignore and brings some real emotion to the film. Clooney gives a truly heartbreaking and believable performance as the haunted assassin, being able to say so much without speaking a word. I also have to give a shout out to the film’s score. While the majority of the film is completely silent, the music that does show up fits the film perfectly and truly hits the right notes (pun intended).
Overall, if you are in the mood for a visually stunning, old fashioned, classy European western…then check out The American. It features one of Clooney’s best performances and is further proof that Anton Corbijn is a talent to watch. It will test modern audiences, but is the type of movie that is sorely missed nowadays.
Something to watch for: Clooney’s character watching Henry Fonda in Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West. A great scene as their characters have much in common.
Rating: R for violence, sexuality/nudity
Runtime: 103 minutes