Director: Anton Corbijn
Screenplay: Rowan Joffé
Starring: George Clooney
Synopsis is here
Place the idea of The American into the hands of the next Micheal Bay wannabe and you'd most likely get yet another loud, flashy affair, with little substance and mounds of over the top violence. That's fine an all, but with your Knight and Days, Takers, A-Teams and other wise; it's great to see something like this.
When I say something like this; I mean adult. The American has enough guns and girls for a guy like me, but it has one crucial thing that so many shoot em ups often miss: conscience. It's remarkable at the difference such a thing makes to a film like this. The moment the chilly cold open finishes and you glimpse at the first, unflinching, heavy look on Clooney's face afterwards, you realize, that Anton Corbijn's film wishes to say more than merely "guns kill". The film isn't slapdash with what it wants to say and doesn't care how "long" it has to say it. Some have complained about the pace of the movie, I however was never bothered in the slightest. Mostly, it was due to the fact that I found myself absorbed by this character and his journey.
At it's core, The American has a quite typical "one last job" story that has featured quite heavily in many of the films I've seen this year. The last film with a similar aspects I saw of this ilk was the glossy but vapid Takers (replace one assassin with group of robbers), so one wouldn't be too surprised that I may have had slight reservations. However, what made The American a worthwhile viewing is once again the idea of consequence. The conflict within this hitman as he slowly gains an element of morality within such an amoral space is quietly compelling and admirably handled by Clooney, whose stoic performance is one of his strongest. It's one that's brilliantly at odds with the charming rouge we saw in Up in the air. Once again Clooney looks deeper within himself (see Solaris) to bring out a display that finds meaning in tiny inflictions instead of utilizing his Hollywood smile. His looks and glances does what the sparse dialogue doesn't. The man has range and he shows it once more here.
His performance is enhanced by Corbijn's beautiful use of setting and Martin Ruhe's gorgeous cinematography. They use the Italian landscape with it's vast countryside and tight, enclosed alleyways to capture the conflict that plays out within Clooney. It really is something to watch...if your into that sort of thing.
Those who want more bloodshed and carnage may find themselves frustrated with all the navel gazing, however when the quick and sharp action plays out, it does make an impact. In fact in a cinematic world where we are getting assaulted more and more with such quick fire action set pieces, the film manages to make it's violence gives more of an effect than some of the more shiny affair this year.
The American is a steadily paced story of a crisis of consequence, which teasingly does with not only with very familiar tropes (one last job assassin, tart with a heart love interest, knowing vicar) but does so and in a wonderfully grown up and precise manner. It's a movie where good and bad are merely words and decisions not only matter, they linger in the mind.