Movie Review: "The American"

 

Photographer: Giles Keyte – © 2010 Focus Features LLC. All Rights Reserved.

A bleak film at its most charming, “The American,” wraps you up in what little hope there is, and makes you want that hope with as much hollow desperation as George Clooney’s cold and unfeeling professional assassin.

Clooney portrays Jack, who, taking refuge from a Swedish job gone awry flees to the Italian countryside. He falls into a watchful life, developing a friendship with the local priest and a questionable relationship with a town prostitute, portrayed with wonderful restraint and subtlety by Violante Placido.

Anton Corbijn’s “The American,” only his second feature after “Control” (2007) is an impressive undertaking. Grounded in a harsh world, where the silence and emptiness draws you in; the film makes you feel part of the landscape, which is perhaps its most impressive accomplishment.

George Clooney, for his part one of the few remaining lovers of classic storytelling left in mainstream Hollywood, and one of the producers of “The American,” helps take his sensibilities and unleash them on the kind of film that honors the earlier influences of “Bullitt,” and “The Conversation.”

As such, the slow and delicate way in which the relationships play out here is refreshing to watch, and the structure of each scene requires a tip of the hat to the screenwriter, who adapted the “The American,” from Martin Booth’s novel, “A Very Private Gentleman.” Each scene adds a further layer of intrigue and a further question, but without spelling out the answers.

Many of Clooney’s recent films have resorted back to this classic film-making style, paced and thoughtful, and never pre-possessed by demonstrating emotion through cuts and dramatic scores that think for you. But yes, we’ve heard all this before. “The American” does it again. The story is told as much by its pace as by the action on screen, and it was worth the wait of summer.

Jack’s quiet desperation to find something else in his life, something better than always looking over his shoulder is a noble goal. And, for the audience too, here you have something more than just the sum of its parts, and hopefully, the quiet desperation to find something better from Hollywood leads you to “The American.”

 

What: "The American"

Directed by: Anton Corbijn

Starring: George Clooney, Violante Placido, and Paolo Bonacelli

Rated: R, for violence, sexual content, and nudity

Should you go? For sure…unless of course you have the sensibilities of the critic behind me in his barely washed “Watchmen” t-shirt and sport coat.