Movie Review: The American (2010)

George Clooney is maybe the most interesting movie star working today. Unlike many of the top-Hollywood talent, Clooney has a complete hand in all of his projects and seems to stay away from the obvious A-list blockbusters. His newest film, The American (directed by Control filmmaker Anton Corbijn) has certainly been marketed as a ‘George Clooney’ film — the trailer doesn’t give much indication of what the movie is about except that Clooney is an American in Europe and he can do pull-ups really well. Honestly, I didn’t see much in the trailer that compelled me to see this movie, but as a Clooney fan, I decided to go to the cinema anyway.

Actually, the film involves Clooney as Jack, a lonely hit-man looking for one last job, but unlike the normal hit-man-last-job re-treads, Clooney doesn’t even need to pull the trigger. Instead, he is hired to build a gun to certain specifications and deliver it to another hit-man (or, hit-woman, I should say) to be used on an unknown target. Personally, I have always enjoyed George Clooney and trust him when he is in a film. His character is actually quite similar to the established roles Clooney has played in recent years — he is a loner who is very good at what he does, but desperately needs a break from his routine. My favorite lead performance of 2009 (from Up in the Air) is nearly replicated here in an entirely different environment. Like in that movie, Clooney doesn’t do anything spectacular to really grab an audience, but he feels so effortlessly comfortable in his character’s skin that I can’t help but respect it.

Truthfully, there isn’t too much to say about this movie — like the trailer, the film doesn’t have a lot going on in terms of action or plot. It is, though, a very good story film — we spend a lot of solid quiet moments with Clooney, and while he doesn’t say much, we learn a lot about his character through his actions and untold desires. I doubt anyone would see the trailer and expect a lot of action, but if one does, they will probably be disappointed. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the film is boring, but it is quiet and still, with many scenes that don’t do anything to push the straight-line plot forward. This does help the few action set pieces stand out, even though nothing spectacular happens in this department. The climax of the film does deliver some nice suspense, answering questions to the mysterious plot points established throughout the film. For those who enjoy beautiful cinematography, however, you will leave impressed. Corbijn’s camera uses the beautiful Italian country-side to compliment the film’s beautiful stars.

In all, The American is a film that I fear most cinema-goers will probably not like after viewing, but I think it is worthy of a chance, especially for those who enjoy small suspense films and, in particular, George Clooney. Although it doesn’t do anything that a normal hit-man-last-job movie does to bowl over its audience and it doesn’t offer up too much in terms of a complicated plot or a lot to think about, The American works for me. It’s a hard film to overtly recommend, but if you don’t expect too much out of it, you’ll find something to enjoy.

Critical Movie Critic Rating:
4 Star Rating: Good


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'Movie Review: The American (2010)' have 2 comments

  1. The Critical Movie Critics

    September 7, 2010 @ 11:28 am pinkston


    In Roger Ebert’s review of the film (which he gives a four-out-of-four star rating), he likens the film to a Japanese samurai film, which I don’t think is too far off. Although the cultural perception may be different, the best samurai films often are much more introspective than they are action-packed, spending time with samurai as they roam the Japanese country-side and deal with politics, honor and love. Thinking of The American in this way may be a good way to approach the film.

  2. The Critical Movie Critics

    September 8, 2010 @ 8:01 am moomovie

    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.

    – MooMovie Guy

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