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- Director: Anton Corbijn
- Writers: Rowan Joffe (screenplay), Martin Booth (novel)
- Stars: George Clooney, Paolo Bonacelli and Violante Placido
- Release Date: September 2010
- Genre: Drama, Thriller
- Run Time: 105 min
Who would have thought that Hollywood could produce a taut murder-thriller without slamming every plot point down our throats? But there you have it: that’s THE American.
George Clooney, whom I usually enjoy more in his comedic or semi-serious roles (O’ BROTHER WHERE ART THOU and BURN AFTER READING being two of my recent favorites) pulls in a dark, interesting, and dangerous character as Jack, a weapons man/hit-man who’s retirement from his chosen profession is proving extremely difficult.
Making friends is risky to both Jack and those he likes, as we witness early on in the film what he’s forced to do to a woman whose innocence means nothing when Jack is discovered in a Swedish hideout. Forcing Jack to leave, he travels to Italy where he’s told to lay low and wait for instructions. And when the instructions come, the audience can feel those pin-pricks of caution raising on their necks.
The great thing about The American is that Clooney is truly the only recognizable face for many U.S. film-watchers. But the rest of the cast are just as intense as Clooney’s character. Great silences and moments of boredom are punctuated alongside moments of terrible aggression and death. And there’s also sex, love, and priestly friendship intertwined.
It’s rare nowadays to find something like The American showing in U.S. cities, but most of us should be very glad it’s here. Hearkening back to Hitchcock days (but with a modern bent), this movie almost certainly would’ve never seen the light of the Western hemisphere had it not been for Clooney’s pretty-boy face taking front and center stage. But as recognizable as Clooney’s face is, it is NOT a typical Clooney role. Here we get the actor stretching himself into new (and greater) territory. I swear this movie had the fewest lines I’ve ever heard in a major Hollywood production; and I’m thankful for that because it helped up the tension.
Indeed, it is the film’s tension that drives the entire plot. We see and feel the battles raging within Jack as he’s forced to decide whether to kill someone he’s growing close to, or to let them live and risk his own life …again.
Those looking for a kind of BOURNE IDENTITY style flick are going to be sorely disappointed if they think this is in-line with that action-driven drivel. So be prepared for something very different. And very good.