Clooney plays it cool in The American.

Posted on January 13, 2011


Anton Corbijn’s latest offering is a considered thriller that is beautifully photographed with a deliberate, finely judged sense of pace.

The film centers on Clooney’s Jack, a weary assassin and weapons specialist who, after an attempt on his life, is forced by his handler to lay low in a remote Italian village.

Here Jack meets the local priest who causes him to reflect on who he is and what he wants. At the same time, Jack begins to fall in love with a prostitute who encourages him to find the value in himself. Despite this, Jack reluctantly agrees to take on a final job, designing a rifle for a beautiful female assassin.

Whilst the narrative of this film has some rather glaring discrepancies, it is exquisitely shot, Corbijn filling the frame with some stunning, static shots that really are breathtaking.

Clooney’s performance is as restrained and measured as the pacing of the film itself and he gives us a character that is coldly introverted and introspective, whose humanity slowly begins to thaw. There’s something of Tom Ripley in there and I was reminded throughout of a Patricia Highsmith story.

It is this central performance, along with the superb cinematography and slow, molasses sense of pace, that really create the film’s enthralling atmosphere.

Throughout I was reminded of The Day of the Jackal, most notably in the scene where Jack is testing the rifle, but here, unlike Forsyth’s assassin, we see a glimmer of Jack’s soul. And it is in this that we touch on the central theme of the film: Redemption. Jack is a man searching for redemption but who believes his soul to be a lost cause. By giving him guidance through two people who are themselves flawed but essentially good, Jack is able to find his rebirth, like the butterfly he has tattooed on his back.

Many have criticised this film as boring, predictable and pretentious and I can understand why the film’s slow pacing, it’s sense of self-importance and it’s use of clichéd themes might bring someone to that conclusion, but this is a far better film than those criticisms would have you believe. Some have leveled the accusation that this is an American film trying hard to be a European-style thriller, but it is just that – a European film. It just happens to be in English and starring George Clooney. Perhaps if you were looking for another Bourne again action film or Danny Ocean playing James Bond then you would rightly be disappointed, however, if you were looking for a film with stunning visuals and a captivating central performance, then this is for you.


Posted in: Films