The American (Anton Corbijn) 2010
Jack (George Clooney) is an assassin who is for some reason being hunted by a group of Swedes. Jack agrees to hide out in an Italian town and to take a mission at the same time. He is instructed not to meet or have relations with anyone while he is on assignment however he forms a relationship with a local woman. It seems as if his rivals have found him and Jack must struggle to stay alive.
It is strange that I read many reader reviews saying they thought (going in) they thought this was going to be some type of Jason Bourne action thriller. Seeing the trailer I knew exactly what this movie was going to be and what Corbijn was going for. This is a minimalist thriller in the European style of Melville’s Le Samourai. I’m not saying this movie is as good as Le Samourai, I am making the comparison to style. There are no quick edits or frantic camera shots. This is a movie that slowly builds up tension to an intense climax. While not much happens in terms of a complicated storyline with dozens of plot points, things are happening all the time.
The movie almost makes it a point not to tell us much about the motives behind many of the people because it doesn’t matter. The macguffin is irrelevant and what we are to focus on is the character of Jack. He is modeled much in the same way of Deleon’s Samourai. He is a stoic man who dedicates all of himself to being the best at what he does. The cracks begin to show as he falls deeper and deeper for a local prostitute. The tension comes in as the Swedes try to hunt Jack in this town. Like I mentioned before, even though this plot isn’t heavy, there is always something happening. We are drawn into Jack’s paranoid world. We are with Jack in looking over his shoulder, suspecting every acquaintance he meets (wondering if he is some mole or assassin), and jumping at every sudden noise. The main conflicts are whether Jack can trust this new woman he meets and if he can have a life with her. All the pieces come into place in the finale where I found myself really interested in what happened next. I had come to really be invested in Jack’s character to where something as trivial as people walking around a festival was way more interesting than many action scenes dumb summer blockbusters.
George Clooney has to carry this movie and he succeeds in doing so. While most of the time he carries this stern exterior, Clooney is great at showing storm of emotions inside. He is a man who is struggling to keep his cool and the outbursts he has are small but say a lot. It doesn’t seem like he is doing much, but it takes a lot of skill to be so subtle with a performance.
I loved this movie although I know this is not a film for everyone. I can already predict numerous reviews having the phrases “boringest movie ever”, “I fell asleep…” and “nothing happens” peppered in. To those people I can only say you missed the whole point. To people who haven’t seen this movie I can only give a reserved recommendation. To those of you expecting an action movie or George Clooney trying to be Jason Bourne, then I recommend you pass on this movie. To those of you who know the kind of movies I am talking about and enjoyed them, I think you are really going to enjoy this movie.