03 September 2010

Review: "The American"

I have never been the biggest fan of George Clooney and my love of Up in the Air is in spite of him and I still think Michael Clayton would have been a better film with a more talented actor. In The American he gives one of his most controlled and delicate roles. Despite its title, The American is decidedly European. The film wonderfully photographs the Italian country side and the small town of Castel del Monte. The screenplay, with its limited dialogue and beautiful silences, gives George Clooney the opportunity to speak Italian. It would have been unrealistic for people in a small Italian town to speak perfect English. I love hearing foreign languages in film and I hate when studios make characters speak English in an effort to eliminate subtitles. The American is George Clooney's film and its success depends wholly on his restrained performance. The American is a sophisticated and well-crafted thriller that is less dependent on action than character and breathtaking cinematography.

George Clooney plays Jack, an American assassin currently working in Europe. After a violent stay in Sweden Jack flees to Italy. He finds himself in the beautiful town of Castel del Monte and takes a contract to build a specialized weapon for the mysterious Mathilde (Thekla Reuten). In the mountains of Abruzzo Jack befriends a local priest, Father Benedetto (Paolo Bonacelli), who is led to believe that Jack is a photographer but suspects something more dangerous. He has a severe weakness for woman and begins having a liaison with Clara (Violante Placido), a beautiful prostitute. Jack is tormented by his actions in Sweden and he fears retribution. He must deal with the wishes of his boss (Johan Leysen), his suspicions of Mathilde's real intentions and the dangers of his blossoming relationship with Clara.

The American is quite unlike many thrillers that are released today. It is such a well-crafted film that unfolds purposefully and deliberately, quite like Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer. The difference between the two films is that George Clooney gives us a sympathetic hero. I often feel that George Clooney's performances come with too much ego and I am thankful that he took a much more subdued route. The main cast of The American are very talented actors, particularly Thekla Reuten and Violante Placido, who are wonderfully cast against George Clooney. It is the second feature film from Anton Corbijn, a Dutch director who has built a career directing music videos for artists such as U2, Coldplay and Depeche Mode. I hope that his unique take on the thriller will be translated into further films. With superior cinematography and skilled actors The American is an intelligent thriller that uses character and story instead of action.

My rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.

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