The American (2010)

The American (2010)

Static Mass Rating: 5/5

Release Date: November 26th, 2010
Certificate: 15
Running Time: 105 minutes

Director: Anton Corbijn

Cast: George Clooney, Irina Bjorklund, Lars Hjelm, Johan Leysen, Paolo Bonacelli, Giorgio Gobbi, Silvana Bosi, Thekla Reuten, Guido Palliggiano, Samuli Vauramo, Antonio Rampino, Violante Placido

Based on the novel ‘A Very Private Gentleman’ by Martin Booth, The American stars George Clooney as Jack, an assassin who is constantly on the move and always alone.

After a job in Sweden goes wrong, Jack retreats to the picturesque Italian countryside where he tries to lose himself in the small medieval town of Abruzzo. He decides to take on a new assignment; to build a gun for the mysterious and beautiful Mathilde (Thekla Reuten).

In Abruzzo he also reluctantly becomes friends with an old priest, Father Benedetto (Paolo Bonacelli). Benedetto senses he is a man who has committed many sins and offers him confession, but eventually it is Benedetto who ends up confessing to Jack. He also visits a local prostitute, Clara (Violante Placido), and continues to pay her for her time, but she too senses he has many secrets and the roles become reverse in a way; it is her who lives on his time.

The American (2010)The American (2010)The American (2010)

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As Jack works on building the gun, he falls in love with Clara and does not deny to Benedetto that his suspicions about him might be true. He tries to keep his guard up and is constantly on the lookout, fearing that the Swedes might be after him and eventually suspecting that Clara might not be what she seems. As an assassin, the most dangerous thing he can do, apart from wanting out, is falling in love and here he is doing both.

George Clooney has always struck me as the talkative type. Chatty, witty, even a bit of a wiseass, so it came as a surprise to see him in a film which is so very quiet. The American has quite a European feel to it, it’s very sparse on the dialogue and much of the film is about mood, atmosphere and watching what the characters do rather than hearing what they say. Although beautifully filmed, acted and scored, there are quite some scenes which might have been great in the novel, but in the film don’t really work all that well and seem out of place, as if they were filmed from the book rather than an adapted screenplay.

The American (2010)

I also could not help but wonder about the symbolism in the movie. The movie has an extremely restrained feel to it and there are many scenes with Jack working on the guns; his hands on the barrels, cylinders, pipes, triggers and levers. It’s almost very phallic and he seems to restrain his excitement when he watches Mathilde handle the gun, it’s the most excited he becomes when he is with her, despite her wearing a completely see through dress and he has the opportunity. Still, he doesn’t act on it.

Later on when he is with Clara, the scenes verge on explicit, but never really get there, although they are certainly passionate and sensual. Clara remarks that his mind seems to be elsewhere.

The American (2010)

The same can be said for the music for the film which was composed by German singer-songwriter Herbert Grönemeyer. It adds much depth to what would have been a silent movie but it too is restrained. His strings and keys emphasise Jack’s isolation, suspicions and fears very well but managed to keep it all contained.

Overall, The American is a very stylish, very beautiful, minimalist movie, which more than anything is the portrait of a very restrained man.

One Response to “The American (2010)”

  1. KarlosTheJackal Says:

    I quite enjoyed this little thriller, but agree as well, it’s not really what I was expecting, slow on the action, very quiet and a bit intellectual.

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