Director: Anton Corbijn
Cast: George Clooney, Violante Placido, Thekla Reuten, Paolo Bonacelli, Johan Leysen
I was looking forward to watching Ben Affleck's The Town this week, when the film people over here decided to push it to December. Bummer! So I needed something to satisfy my movie fix this week, and I picked this film. It was either this or a Zac Efron tearjerker, or the Wall Street sequel, neither of which this reviewer is interested in.
The American stars George Clooney as Jack, a hitman who is both weary and paranoid over his job. At the beginning, we see him kill two men who try to kill him, and he also kills his female companion, who prior to this had no idea what he does for a living.
His employer sends him to a small town in Italy and tells him to lay low until his next assignment. Once there, he befriends two people: Father Benedetto (Paolo Bonacelli), a friendly priest who is rather observant of Jack's past despite his attempts to hide it, and Clara (Violante Placido), a hooker whom Jack gets involved with.
Eventually, Jack's employer Pavel (Johan Leysen) hands him his assignment: to construct an assault rifle for a woman named Mathilde (Thekla Reuten). Using his skill with weapons and some parts that he is able to procure, he goes to the job at hand. But he soon notices that some people are shadowing him, the same kind of people who tried to kill him before, and it affects his judgment and emotions concerning the people around him.
I had not seen any of Anton Corbijn's work before, as I am not well educated on European arthouse flicks. But The American is without a doubt, a unique piece of work. As with most European films, this one is a quiet movie, where a lot of time is spent on wide cinematography and contemplative moments. Unlike most thrillers like the Bourne trilogy and the recent Salt, or even The Replacement Killers, The American takes its time in telling its story, which really isn't about slam bang action, but a character study. I have to say that this film is one of the quietest films I've ever seen. It almost has no music score, apart from some piano solos sparsely inserted here and there, and some obligatory music during the credits. So watching this in a cinema where there are plenty of fidgety kids or patrons who would rather converse with each other than seeing the movie might be a tad tough to do.
Clooney is incredible here, I must say. I think I can sum up his total dialogue in 2 pages. He doesn't have much to say here, so whatever acting he does is focused on his actions, like watching, observing, building the aforementioned weapon, working out etc. And he pulls it off well. His character Jack is a private man, hiding many secrets, who may be a violent person and yet is able to appreciate nicer things like butterflies. If you are the kind of viewer who has the patience to watch a character evolve, you'll be able to follow this.
Of the supporting cast, it's Bonacelli who stands out as the priest. His conversations with Jack, though simple and reserved for the most part, carry a lot of weight in itself. Where Clara is Jack's key to a potentially better life, Father Benedetto is Jack's anchor to being a good person. I enjoyed Bonacelli's performance here.
It's a pity that the local censors removed the juicy parts of the picture, or I would have enjoyed this a bit more. But all in all, I ended up liking The American more than I thought I would. It has gathered mixed reviews so far, but only because some people expected something else when they walked into the theatre.
My advice is this: if you're looking for an action film, don't watch this. If you like seeing George Clooney act in silence, go for this. (3.5/5)