George Clooney. Anton Corbijn. These are two names one would not usually associate with each other, much less expect to appear in the same credit roll. After all, one is a blockbuster regular and the other is an auteur of sorts, known more as a photographer and creative director for U2’s album sleeves than as a filmmaker.
|PHOTO COURTESY OF FOCUSFEATURES
With his 2007 directorial debut Control receiving as much praise as put-downs from critics, however, one can be certain that The American will be another interesting effort, if not a divisive one.
Adapted from the 1990 novel A Very Private Gentleman, The American is not your typical action thriller, despite a plot which seemingly promises lots of action and intrigue. George Clooney, in a departure from his typical wisecracking characters, gives a measured performance as the somber hitman Jack. Barely escaping alive from a mission gone awry, he beats a retreat into the mountains of Abruzzo in Italy, where he reluctantly takes on his last assignment before retiring for good—fashioning a hi-specs sniper rifle for a mysterious woman, whose role and identity the audience is not privy to until the very end.
Inching the plot forward with minimal dialogue, action and music, the movie clues the audience into Jack’s psyche by employing lots of wide-angle shots that feature stark expanses of space in the Italian countryside—it’s a melancholic, lonely existence punctuated with bouts of paranoia and suspicion. At the same time, it keeps the audience at the edge of their seats with strategically placed gaps in the storyline.
What makes the movie tick is the rich characterization of Clooney’s character, juxtaposed against a barren landscape and fleshed out in his contradictory friendship with a priest and a prostitute.
Overall, The American is inherently more arthouse than action, and if nothing else, its cinematic value lies solely in introducing a refreshing change to the tried and tired Hollywood flicks of the latter genre.