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The American

A movie directed by Anton Corbijn

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A Deliberate, Methodical, Quiet, Moody "American"....

  • Feb 5, 2011
Rating:
+4
I’ve seen a series of mixed reviews on director Anton Corbijn’s “The American”. A few of them gave the movie high marks while the majority gave it a less than average rating, claiming the movie was such a slow-moving boring affair that they had to fight falling asleep on it. Well, I am not the type who dislikes slow-moving films, I actually revel in them as long as the narrative is compelling, the acting is great and the cinematography is impressive. I would have to say that “The American” is a victim of its own attempts in sensationalism; with George Clooney in the lead, it would be easy to dismiss it as your cookie-cutter action film complete with explosions and fast-moving momentum. If you are going to watch this film, forget about the misleading trailer and go with the movie as a moving, deliberate, methodical drama-thriller that has the sensibilities of foreign films. The casual movie watcher would call it slow, and those looking for action thrills will be very disappointed.

This is a film that goes into the psyche of a former hitman and is an adaptation of the novel by Martin Boothe entitled “A Very Private Gentleman” and may indeed be the better title. The film is a tense, focused, by-the-numbers tale with a meditation about life with some quick, well-handed shoot outs. There are no explosions and no musical score to generate emotion. This is the story of a former assassin who is trying to live past that bloody life, and for me, I am truly sorry that I missed this film in theaters and for me, this may be one of Clooney‘s finest films.

                              George Clooney as Jack in "The American."

                             A scene from "The American"

Jack (George Clooney) is a man who lived in violence. After a botched assassination attempt on his life, Jack flees to the Italian countryside. Always on the move and on the alert for danger which may not come or may be just around the corner, Jack keeps to himself while providing supplies to a beautiful woman called Mathilde (Thekla Reuten), he begins to appreciate the quiet and simplicity of the way of life in this small town. As he accepts the friendship of a priest (Paolo Bonacelli) and he pursues a torrid liaison with a sexy prostitute, Clara (Violante Placido), Jack feels that he may be free of danger. But is he really?
                  
The film has the flavor, mood and atmosphere as a 60’s French crime epic or perhaps a 70’s Italian film by Leone; somehow it reminded me of the Austrian film “Revanche” the way it uses limited dialogue and musical scores. With “The American”, as with foreign films, one needs to read between the lines. The direction ensures that each dialogue has meaning, every action or reaction has a hidden meaning and it makes the film as one meditative character study of a man whose past profession and life calls for violence. I didn’t think the film was slow, for me it carried enough cinematic ‘zest’ that drew me into its screenplay. Yes, it requires patience as the film is not your conventional kind, but I enjoyed the way it developed its narrative through the feelings of a former hitman.

                     Violante Placido as Clara and George Clooney as Jack in "The American."

                     George Clooney as Jack in "The American."

                    Thekla Reuten as Mathilde and George Clooney as Jack in "The American."

                   Violante Placido and George Clooney in "The American."

“The American” asks the viewer for the motivation and doesn’t show the motivation. The leading character played by Clooney has relationships, and yet all of them seem so far and kept at an arm’s length as displayed in the opening act. Jack is a man who knows that his life would one day end in violence, he knows betrayal is a part of his affairs and so he is paranoid, he always looks behind his shoulder and he tries not to establish relationships; each sound or person can be seen as a potential threat. One would wonder why he would create a close one with a beautiful prostitute and the answer is in the film’s opening act. Jack is a man who wants to finish his affairs, even in hiding, he does what he does well, and in this case creating a custom weapon for another. Clooney was surprisingly quite convincing as the lead character. He doesn’t say much but the direction makes his actions speak much loader. (observe his eyes while he puts together a rifle at home, you‘ll see a longing and tired soul) I was impressed how Clooney pushed the boundaries of his range.

The supporting characters weren’t mere fodder to be sure. The priest (played by Palo Bonacelli) was the reflection of a righteous man who had done bad things in the past which was hinted at, speaks volumes in the narrative despite their limited screen time together. The woman called Mathilde (Thekla Reuten) is a representation of one who is beginning a life of violence whereas Jack wants to leave it behind. The relationship with Clara is one last effort as to not be alone, it was an expression of being human and having the need for companionship; could be love or could be a simple atonement for his past crimes.

                         George Clooney as Jack and Violante Placido as Clara in "The American."

                        George Clooney as Jack in "The American."

The cinematography by Martin Ruhe accentuates the direction as he makes each shadow a potential threat, each compressed camera shot further plays off the labyrinth-like town and the town is given character as with the rarity of passer-bys and renders the place with possible tension as the sounds and corners may hide a hidden threat. There are some sequences with a soundtrack, it is a beautiful haunting score by Gronemeyer that captures the soul of our protagonist. The film also has some sex scenes and quite a good number of nudity, so please take notice of current company.

“The American” will be one of those underrated, underappreciated films that came as an underdog in 2010 and will remain as one in 2011 on Blu-ray and Dvd; and this is quite sad. Due to its sorry attempts in marketing the film as an action film, the film will never reach a deserved appreciation. True, it does have a narrow focus and is meant for the esoteric audience, but I guarantee your patience and investment of thought will pay off. The direction never meant the film to be conventional, he relies on observation, keeps to some ambiguity as to actions speaking and words unspoken. It is one film that keeps its sight on one person, his world and how we see such a world. For me, “The American” is the surprise hit of 2010.

Highly Recommended! [4+ Out of 5 Stars]

           Poster art for "The American."

                     

 

 
 
 
 
A Deliberate, Methodical, Quiet, Moody

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February 10, 2011
I'm not really interested in this film, like Alex, but now your review makes me want to check it out. Excellent writing as always, William!
February 13, 2011
Thanks, Adri! I went to see this with low expectations. A lot of folks told me that it was boring, but then I read somewhere (@ also encouraged me) that the supporting actresses were grogeous so I thought....how boring can it be? So I gave it a shot. It pleasantly surprised me. Even JR liked it!!
February 16, 2011
I wanted to see this while it was in the theaters, but didn't get the chance. I will be catching it on DVD though for sure.
February 16, 2011
YAY!! I see Karen!!
February 17, 2011
Well, maybe I will need to see it now based on your comments. :D

Yay for Karen! We all love Karen! (gives her a big hug)
 
February 09, 2011
Honestly I was not interested in this film at all, but now I think I will check it out.
February 09, 2011
This had mixed reviews so I had to see it. I was stunned as to how it surprised me. How have you been, man? Busy?
 
February 08, 2011
Naked ladies you say huh? I'm already intrigued. I very nearly caught this one via the magic of Payperview then ended up going with RED instead. This does sound interesting though! Clooney's been hit or miss for me lately. I heard Men Who Stare at Goats wasn't too bad but whenever Ifind myself pulling up to the Redbox, other selections get the nod. Thanks William, I'll check into this one.
February 08, 2011
This was surprisingly good! Clara was just seductive. and Clooney did quite well in this role. I liked RED myself, that one was a fun ride. review?

oh, another thing. Never let it be said that I only review dark, mature comic books. I also do nostalgic ones.
 
February 06, 2011
Oh please! LOL... you must be awfully bored! ;-) Good thing I watched it on dvd and didn't spend much $ on it.
February 06, 2011
BOOO!! I saw it as a rental and then I bought the Bluray. Seriously I really enjoyed it, but I can see why you wouldn't enjoy it. Well, nikid ladies are always a plus for me LOL!
February 06, 2011
hey, are you also having difficulties in voting as with me and some other folks I've heard?
February 06, 2011
No problem so far, as long as you don't vote for yourself, LOL...
February 06, 2011
I always get the ring thingie LOL!
 
February 05, 2011
Excellent review as always my friend, this to me was one of the finest films to come out in the torrential 2010 it was  to me what true filmmaking is all about. Slow, methodical and reflective on the characters and there pasts that are less than reputable. This is the new "Le Samourai"(1967) for a whole new generation a true American masterpiece.
February 05, 2011
perfectly put, Lopez! I wish I thought of that. I liked this movie a lot and I am leaving to purchase the Bluray today! I loved the way it played on its real emotions reflective of the feelings of the characters. This was simple and yet brilliant. Review from you?
February 05, 2011

I am planning to buy this on Bluray sometime soon   I'm just waiting for  the price of the DVD  to come down a bit. But what I found most intriguing about this film is that from the opening scene with Jack in the cottage you are instantly hooked, you can not stop watching this as it just sucks you deeper and deeper into its world that-to me- is what filmmaking is all about. But the scenery and the engrossing atmosphere never overpower these multi-dimensional characters, I have an old saying if the characters have no power or are not interesting than the film falls. And the characters in this film are some of the best written yet and you are right this is one of Clooney's best films to date. And yes you can expect a review from me sometime soon I am kind of swamped right now I let my reviews backup on me so I have some serious catching up to do but I will review this film. 

February 05, 2011
My friend, those are some fine comments. I await your review eagerly!
February 05, 2011
Thank you very much and I will try to get my review in soon I will try not to keep you waiting.
 
1
More The American reviews
review by . March 03, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Moody, intelligent & artistic; not for all tastes
I recall reading or hearing somewhere that “The American” isn’t quite what you expect.  I never gave that much thought until I watch the movie.  The promos for this movie depict it as an action and/or suspense film.  This is somewhat misleading and why trailers/previews at times can either praise a film or condemn them before they are released.  I can say that I really, really enjoyed this motion picture.       I am not going to rehash …
review by . March 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
*** out of ****     Depending on your personal definition of true joy, "The American" could very well be all kinds of fun. It's not the kind of fun that would usually get labeled with such a commonly-used word, but perhaps it's entertaining on a number of different levels. Do not go in to the film expecting an action-spy thriller. While "The American" does indeed have a thriller in its guts, it's mostly a drama; and a damn good one too. To say the least, "The American" is different …
review by . September 02, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
A Quiet, Quality American
THE AMERICAN   Written by Rowan Joffe   Directed by Anton Corbijn   Starring George Clooney, Thekla Reuten and and Violante Placido      Father Benedetto: You are American.  You think you can escape history.  You live for the present.      Ordinarily, when Americans travel abroad, they are expected to be boorish, loud and down right disruptive.  In Anton Corbijn’s second feature, THE AMERICAN, it is practically …
review by . March 25, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
After a trip cross country and 3 months away from the movies I wanted to spend some quality time in a darkened theater being entertained by the moving pictures that played out before my eyes,  however this not the welcome I was expected.       The American is a slow moving and depressing story unlike any of Clooney's "traditional" films and expected abilities.  With little to no dialog the passing of time feels as though it takes hours rather than …
review by . April 13, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
4 stars: A man who's art is death will only know death
I want you to picture yourself sitting in a room, it is dark, and the only source of light is a low hanging fixture that is swinging back and forth back and forth. You look down at the steel table in front of you and before you see a gun, you stare at that gun intensely. Sitting across from you in the shallow light is another person. You don't know who this person is   or why he or she is there sitting across from you  but as you look at that person and then you look at …
review by . March 12, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
The American Is Very Slow Paced
If you like slow moving and slow paced movies then according to my wife and I you will love this movie. We usually love George Clooney movies and when we first saw the previews it looked exciting, and the fact that my wife has actually been to Italy and taken a lot of pictures Italy is really beautiful. The previews did not dispute this fact. This movie is very slow moving and George is a man of little words in the show. I am used to seeing him run the show just like he did in all of his Oceans …
Quick Tip by . January 19, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
This movie is slow... Be warned. But I liked it because it was consistent as to what is was trying to be. If I'd been expecting a fast paced action flick I would have turned it off after 15 mins. If you are going to watch this, I suggest doing it on a rainy night when you are choosing between curling up with a book or watching a movie. I'd say a nice cup of tea, a glass of red wine, or a snifter of brandy would go well with this. Even though it's called The American, it feels like a …
Quick Tip by . April 08, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Caption
Dark, brooding, methodical, meticulous, and engrossing Anton Crobjin's "The American" is easily one of 2010's most morally complex and engaging films of the year, a true masterpiece. "The American" is a stylish and daring return to old school filmmaking of the 60's, 70's 80's and early to mid 90's, this is a slow paced and thought provoking look at what a life as being a deliver of death can do too one man's soul  and mind. Of how …
Quick Tip by . December 28, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
TOO slow, TOO boring & TOO long!!! If not for George Clooney, it's a total waste of time as far as I'm concerned! Why would anyone wants to know a killer's mental state of mind (as far as entertainment value is concerned) is beyond me :-) Even though I managed to fast forward the entire movie on DVD, it's still boring!
About the reviewer
William ()
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Please "Like" Film and Movies and Keep the Economy strong....LOL!!      My Interests: Movies, Anime, History, Martial Arts, Comics, Entertainment,Cooking, Things I don't … more
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About this movie

Wiki

The American is a 2010 American thriller film directed by Anton Corbijn and starring George Clooney, Thekla Reuten, Violante Placido, Irina Björklund, and Paolo Bonacelli. It is an adaptation of the 1990 novel A Very Private Gentleman by Martin Booth. The film opened on September 1, 2010. A trailer for the film was released on May 3, 2010.

References
http://www.fandango.com/theamerican_130692/movieoverview
http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/focus_features/theamerican/
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1440728/

Official site
http://focusfeatures.com/film/the_american/
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Details

Director: Anton Corbijn
Genre: Crime, Drama
Release Date: 1 September 2010 (USA)
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Rowan Joffe, Martin Booth
Runtime: 105 min
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