203 of 235 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2010
I find 'The American' a hard sell as a film. It's not an action-thriller like the trailers make it out to be, nor would I call it a character drama or art house piece. I can't see either of these audiences appreciating this film on the level it wants you to. I think that's why I like it so much, there's nothing else like it in theaters (at least not right now).
'The American' is about cold-blooded professional "Jack" who, after being attacked in Sweden with his girlfriend (which ends violently but not the way you think) is directed by his associate to hide out in a small town in Italy. He ends up friending a priest and a prostitute and takes a job building/modifying a weapon for an assassin. Of course his old enemies catch up to him but the movie chooses more to focus on the main character's slow change from cold-professional to 'maybe' redeemable human being. There's some (very good) action and sex but the story's told in a very leisurely fashion with little dialogue. It's more about what's NOT said between and by characters that gives this movie it's weight and suspense.
The camera work in this film is stunning, and that's a good thing. With the action and unrevealing dialogue taking a back-seat the movies' long, beautiful shots of Italy really set the movie's mood well and gives the sense of isolation and seeming solitude for it's main character. The slow moving scenes of repetition involving the main character constructing a weapon and the brief word exchanges between the main character and another assassin (a terrific Thekla Reuten) perfectly reflects the mindset the film is in.
George Clooney took a big risk being cast in this film. It's unconventional and will easily put off his usual fans. I can even understand his performance of such a cold-hearted character being written off as one dimensional. I can only say I found Clooney perfectly convincing the entire way through and I hope he gets the recognition he deserves. The rest of the cast is non-americans with Violante Placido a stand-out (in more ways than one) as the prostitute whom Clooney befriends and eventually seems to fall for.
The DVD release of 'The American' looks very slick (even on my crappy tube-television) and comes with an insightful making-of that sheds light on the ideas the directors and producers put into the film. While there are some great cast interviews sadly there's not one with George Clooney. I would've loved to know his take on his character but there is some fun 'behind the camera' footage of him chatting and playing around with the rest of the crew so it's obvious he had fun making this movie.
As I said 'The American' is not for everyone and is very much NOT the movie it's advertised as. It's a slow-moving, adult thriller that manages to be engaging and unpredictable without non-stop action and dialogue. For the right audience this film's a winner!
94 of 109 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2010
"The American" is a superbly crafted, visually captivating and subtle character driven drama with an incredibly 70's European style and sensibility. Be warned those looking for an action filled generic thriller will be severely disappointed. This is an artful character study about a troubled assassin nearing the end of what we can tell to be a long career. The general tone of the film mirrors that of the characters personality, a tense and emotionally reserved perfectionist. There is not too much emotion through much of the film because like its main character it is hard for him and the film to open up, or let anyone in. This is probably the most suspenseful film I have seen this year. It becomes hard to trust anyone he meets and I found myself becoming just as paranoid as he was at times. The performances were all wonderful, this was the most reserved I have seen Clooney since "Syriana". He played the character with such subtly and depth. I thought the end was fantastic. I felt it was the only fitting conclusion to this story. Although this ending isn't the most original, with the help of Corbijn's meticulous story telling and Clooney's performance I found it to be quite upsetting.
I can completely understand why some do not like this film but I absolutely loved it. I thought it was so fascinating and so well crafted. It was shot so beautifully and felt so much like it could have been a film by Jean-Pierre Melville. I can easily understand any comparison to "Le Samourai" because they really are very similar. I couldn't disagree more with what a lot of critics have said about this but I can understand that is just isn't for everyone. For me, it is easily the best film I have seen so far this year.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2010
I felt it was necessary to balance the scales a little after reading the many shallow reviews written by others who were duped by the action-movie marketing. No it's not an action movie, but if you grow up a little & see it as a realistic telling of a man's misspent life then you can come to appreciate how well crafted a film it is. It's not a film for testosterone junkies but if you're an intellectual with a colorful past who can appreciate how a man can "grow up" after age 40 & learn to love life- then you might get it. As other smart reviewers have noted- it's not for the teeming mass of recent boot-camp graduates(I'm paraphrasing), but those of us who've left that far behind us will look upon it with knowing eyes. Enjoy it for the good acting & the beautiful locations & the polished idea it presents. You can't escape your past & that's what should be understood from this movie.
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on September 3, 2010
George Clooney's latest film, directed by a former music video director Anton Corbijn, is a film that demonstrates effective use of star power: it's unlikely this film would have gotten any attention (and it's still unlikely to be anything huge) without the presence of the King of Hollywood. Clooney's been willing to loan out his starpower to low-profile films in the past, and he does so again here. This is a slow-burn story more interested in character interiors than "Bourne Identity"-style action sequences (though it is not devoid of action), one that will probably divide audiences. But if you're interested in that sort of film, this has a lot to recommend. Spoilers follow.
The film opens with a prologue in snowy Sweden, where Jack (Clooney) is cottage-going. There's a twist here that has been spoiled in some reviews, but is most effective when you don't know about it, so I'll refrain from saying anything. The key is that it sends our assassin title character on a trip to a small Italian town to await his next assignment from his boss, Pavel (Johan Leysen). Soon, a new assignment arrives, in the form of assistance to another assassin (Thekla Reuten), and legacies of his last mission also begin to appear. Whiile there Jack ponders the state of his life, sort-of-befriends a priest (Paolo Bonacelli), and starts to fall in love with a really, really luscious prostitute (Violante Placido).
It's familiar material, but it's played well. The director knows how to use the camera effectively, positioning it in ways that keep the audience on guard for something about to happen. If I came away with a single impression, it was a strong desire to visit the town in which this was filmed, because it looks stunning. Clooney really dials down his charisma here (like he did in "Syriana"), and gives an effective performance. The other actors, mainly Italians, are all effective, particularly Placido, who really sells the idea that our lead character would want to give up his old lifestyle to live with her (and she's very attractive - this is a movie prostitute who actually takes her clothes off). The mark of a good movie is when they can really interest you in the mechanics of the character's profession: we get some long sequences of Clooney at work on his guns, and it's interesting to watch (particularly constructing a sound supressor out of parts from an auto shop).
47 of 60 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2010
The American' is a quietly powerful story and badly marketed by Focus Features. This is a slow burn character study that is ultimately very close to a remake of Jean-Pierre Melville's film 'Le Samourai'.
Director Anton Corbijn and scribe Rowan Joffe have taken Martin Booth's novel and crafted a real masterpiece here. George Clooney gives a top 5 performance as an assassin with a moral crisis of sorts, and those who stick with this film are rewarded.
BUT: It's definitely not for everyone. Those who are game for it are likely to become big fans. The film likely won't do much damage in the Oscar race, but that doesn't mean it isn't deserving of attention, because it definitely is. Jack (Clooney) is an assassin hiding out in a small Italian village. While there, he's supposed to keep a low profile and just wait for his next assignment. According to his boss (Johan Leysen) it's supposed to be simple, he'll just be making a custom rifle for another assassin (Thekla Reuten), not evening firing it. His lack of connection to the world gets to him however, and he soon finds himself seeing a local prostitute (Violante Placido) and befriending the town's priest (Paolo Bonacelli). Occasionally, someone will try to kill Jack, but that's almost beside the point in this film. The focus is far more on the potential romance with the prostitute and the possibly redemption of Jack's soul.
George Clooney is excellent here, taking risks again as an actor and stripped of all of his charm. He's rarely been better than he is here. The film lives and dies by his performance, and he's more than up to the challenge. The movie would suffer if a lesser actor was in the role. He's supported by an almost exclusively foreign cast, and they accent Clooney well, while not stealing the spotlight. Leysen is mostly seen talking to Clooney on the phone, but he's suitably menacing. Reuten comes off as both sexy and deadly, which is essentially for her scenes with Clooney. As for his two non-violent companions, his chemistry with Placido is very strong (and sexual...she's not afraid of nudity in the least), while it's more of a father-son thing with Bonacelli. No one here is bad, but it's the Clooney show through and through in this flick. Corbijn is a visual stylist while not being flashy, in the vein of the directors of the 1970's. Here he lingers on shots of Italy, making the village almost a character unto itself. Some might fault his extraordinarily slow pacing, but I found it more deliberate than "slow", per say. The script by Joffe is good, but wouldn't be what it is without Corbijn directing it and Clooney acting in it. Of the three major players, Corbijn is most deserving of awards attention, but ironically is the least likely to receive it. On the Oscar front, the film is good enough to be mentioned in the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Cinematography fronts, but if any will happen, it'll be Cinematography of Martin Ruhe getting recognized. The flick is just too "indie" for a mainstream release (creating a lot of disgruntled viewers, like the one below) AND rated R for nudity, so it'll divide audiences and voters rather than uniting them. That's not a recipe for success, but it takes nothing away from the quality of the movie. 'The American' is one of the better releases of 2010. It won't satisfy those looking for a shoot-em-up, clean cut storytelling, or a neat denouement, but if you're in the mood for something different, this is a real treat.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
With all the advanced advertizing for this movie, my wife and I rented The American and anticipated a fun evening watching an entertaining thriller. That was not what occurred.
The American is not a "thriller", but a slow moving crime story. This film is similar to the "Spaghetti Westerns" made popular by Clint Eastwood in the 1960s, in that it has a slow moving plot, little dialogue, and highly symbolic scenes and gestures. It is a character story with a moral.
George Clooney stars as Jack, an assassin who is growing tired of his profession. After being ambushed near a lake in Sweden, Jack flees to a remote village in Italy. He functions with a false name, and takes what he hopes to be his last job, making an assault rifle for a colleague.
Jack encounters two characters who attempt to reform him: a priest and a prostitute. The priest, Father Benedetto, played by Paolo Bonacelli, senses that he is a criminal (a sinner who still intends to sin) but listens to him and accepts and befriends him.
The prostitute, Clara, played by Violante Placido, provides him with comfort and understanding. Clara offers Jack unconditional love and Jack slowly falls for her.
The American is a film for a few. The typical viewer may leave during the middle of the movie or wonder why they stayed. Those who love character studies will likely enjoy the film. I rate this film average.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2010
I usually don't write reviews but I feel like I need to for The American. It seems that a lot of people expected this to be another Bourne Identity or Bond movie. This is definitely not that. This movie is all about the plot and creating tension. It's about the slow and methodical way the plot unfolds. Because of that, when the action comes it feels more real than anything you'd see in a Bond movie.
I really, really enjoyed it and if you enjoyed Clooney's version of Solaris over the Ocean movies I imagine you will enjoy this too.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2013
This movie was refreshing in the extreme. It has been a long time since have seen a movie that did not spoon feed its plot to me. It did not use brass bands or flashing lights to make its points. It was subtle, quiet, and meticulous -- just like its protagonist. Some say it was slow but I thought that it was more inevitable. Like water rolling downhill everything followed it's course, like fate.
If you expect an action movie you will be disappointed. It is a character study of a man who is caught in current of all the choices he has made and is seeking a way out. A man no longer at the top of his form in a game where there is only one mistake per player. A man whose greatest flaw is simply that he has become lonely.
This movie soft and delicate and sad. Enjoy it.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2011
This review contains a spoiler. Do not read this review if you do not want to read the spoiler.
Firstly, I misunderstood the film advertisement and initially mistook this film to be an action/adventure thriller. So there was an initial disappointment, but I got over it and for the most part was moderately entertained by the tragic romance & drama involving the burnt out hitman/arms customizer (George Clooney) who longs for comfort through friendship & romance which is forbidden in his line of work.
What nearly ruined this film for me was the unnecessarily elaborate climatic scene where the the female assassin who is contracted to kill Clooney's character is mortally wounded by her employer (Clooney's handler) when the handler decides he's going to kill Clooney's character himself. Why? Why hire an assassin in the first place, if you are going to try to do the job yourself? It seems to me, that practicality would dictate allowing the assassin to do her job. The ending is inexplicable and overly elaborate just so the film can portray the handler's treachery and to have a poignant and sad ending where "the American" can meet his lover one last time before he dies at their secret meeting place.
It could have been a better movie, if the storyline provided a more logical execution of the ending, but as is, I have to give it a "3".
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2010
STARRING: George Clooney, Paolo Bonacelli Violante Placido and Irina Björklund
WRITTEN BY: Rowan Joffe; based on the novel by Martin Booth
DIRECTED BY: Anton Corbijn
Genre: Drama / Thriller
Release Date: 01 September 2010
Review Date: 07 September 2010
The first thing you need to know about The American, is that it's probably not going to be what you expect. The daunting music and fast editing we see in the trailer is nothing more than typical Hollywood marketing propaganda. Add to that, the `cool movie trailer voice guy' on the radio advertisements describing George Clooney's character as `an assassin who lived in the shadows' and an audio clip of Clooney shouting `Who's side are you on?!' - and you're sitting in a bathtub of lies and disappointment. That line of dialogue was definitely voiced by Clooney, but never appears in this film. All these things mentioned, are not to imply that I didn't enjoy the film.
To call The American an action film would be to call The Bourne Identity a comedy. It's a drama with a gentle nod in the direction of being a thriller. It's an artsy film; long drawn out sequences of following the central character around doing normal everyday things like working out, driving, and walking down the street. There is little to no music in tow and very lean dialogue throughout. There - now you can stop reading and go see The Expendables if this isn't what you're looking forward to. Big Clooney fan like myself? Good - keep reading.
George Clooney stars as, you guessed it - `the American', complete with all the glory of the most American of American names, particularly on the silver screen; Jack. Jack is an assassin who has grown weary of the lifestyle. The film opens with him on holiday with his Swedish lover. I won't reveal what happens, but I will tell you that it ignites the entire momentum of the film, and is the first of several unanswered questions the movie fails to provide. The one I'm talking about here being, why did he handle the situation in Sweden the way that he did? He expresses later that `she had nothing to do with it.' So why then? Who knows though; others may not have as many questions as I did.
Because of the event in Sweden, Jack takes shelter in Italy. Why Italy? I don't know. Once there however, he is offered a new job by his employer, over the phone. It's clear from the get-go that Jack is trained in combat and is a skilled marksman. But the only proof he was an assassin comes from his boss telling him there is a mark and that he won't have to pull the trigger this time. Jack accepts the job.
What is the job if he is not to kill this time around?; to construct the ultimate rifle for a client to do the killing herself. She wants a rifle with the power of a machine gun, but that can be silenced as much as possible. The scenes showing how Jack constructs this device were among some of my favorites.
Jack forms two important relationships. One is with a woman named Clara (Violante Placido) who is a prostitute, and the second is a Catholic Priest. A rare combination of company to keep, I know.
The relationship with the girl becomes a romance and is handled perfectly by both actors and the filmmakers. They deliver the hottest love scene of the year, as well as extraordinarily well acted scenes, often without dialogue being exchanged.
At least from what I could tell, the priest is merely in the film for us to learn more about Jack's character. We do so by way of secondhand subtext found in the Father confessing the sins of his past to Jack, while Jack stays quiet - no doubt having dabbled in the same muck. Oh yeah, the priest is also there so that Clooney can look at the camera in an extreme close-up and deliver the gnarly one-liner, "I don't think God's very interested in me, Father."
There are way too many things that are left unexplained; such as why there are men after Jack, wanting him dead, and why jack became an assassin in the first place. He claims, "Everything I've done, I've had good cause to do." But I hardly buy that he honestly believes that.
Also, why did he not make a move on the woman he is sculpting the weapon for? She was clearly interested and he was constantly checking her out and his relationship with Clara had not yet blossomed. The only thing I have is maybe he doesn't mix business with pleasure? But then why the temptation in the story? We needed more answers. And what was the deal with the butterflies? I get the parallel, but what was Jack's fascination with them? I have one theory, but I'll leave that one for you to figure out.
The thing The American has that most other films in theaters right now lack, is amazing cinematography; definitely some of the best I have seen this year. The camera tells the story. There are some really terrific shots and we are constantly following Jack through blind cornered alleys in the elegant Italian villas and the camera gives us the sense that there is someone lurking around every corner; and every so often someone is. Most films use music to give these scares away to us prematurely, while The American holds you in silence until we jump when Clooney's character does; that's good cinema.