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The American

A movie directed by Anton Corbijn

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An American in Italy...

  • Mar 17, 2011
*** 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 from most films of its genre. And to say the most, I liked watching it. "The American" is beautifully filmed and superbly acted; set in Italy for most of its plot, and sticking well with the surrounding areas. It's a film where not a whole lot happens outside of the box, but if you look into the characters, you will see that a storm is on the horizon. George Clooney stars in the film, and his character is the man who has to carry this storm. He's an emotional roller-coaster looking for a good resting point; although at the same time, he loathes the business he's in whilst in Italy. The film does indeed take a good idea, and while it doesn't expand on it too fantastically, "The American" can at times be both fascinating and beautiful. It's emotionally resonant, but it will none the less divide audiences. I think it has something to do with the things I LIKED about "The American". I imagine that most of what I admire about the film will come off, to most people, as grim and bland. The film could be described as those things. You say it's mediocre. I say its good stuff. It's at least worth a watch either way, but it's not for everyone. This is a pity, considering Clooney's charm and appeal. It won't work for some people. But I think it worked well enough for me. When is the last time Clooney did this interesting of a performance? Or better yet, when was the last time you saw Clooney in a BAD role? You're still thinking? Well, so am I.

Jack is an American Assassin (and we don't get enough of those nowadays). One day, a job goes down in all the wrong ways, and the emotionally scarred Jack must head for Rome, Italy. He hides out there for a while, that is until he gets a job which requests him to construct a weapon for an ominous woman. Emotions are out in the open throughout the film, and it can be at times quite difficult to figure these people out. Jack is challenged by both his past and his present; the future matters not to him. The character is simply looking of a new lover and a new life, but perhaps Italy is not for him. I have seen films which, if you looked solely at their synopsis (which IMDB tends to provide), sound a lot like "The American". For some reason, "In Bruges" reminds me of this film. The only real difference is that one takes place in Bruges; the other in Rome. Also, one is a great film, and one is good, but not quite a masterpiece. "The American" is perhaps more triumphant as an example of sheer craftsmanship. It's pretty well-written, but not in a sense that could ever make it a master-work. It's definitely not for everyone, but those who can be entertained by this emotional roller-coaster ride will probably observe it and therefore enjoy it. I am somewhat proud to say that I really did enjoy "The American"; as a drama, a thriller, and an actor's showcase. There will be those who detest it, but also those who like it perhaps even more than I do. If you want my personal verdict, then you've got it. "The American" is a damn fine piece of entertainment, and an emotionally charged psychological drama. Look into the characters, and you'll see that they have depth. And if you look into this film, then you'll see that it has much depth as well. Depending on how you go in, "The American" will leave you with many different emotions. I went in with much optimism; expecting exactly what I got. So while it's not great, "The American" does what it wants to do. Therefore, I honestly respect it.

George Clooney has played many absorbing, unforgettable characters in his career-lifetime. I admire his body of work, and I find Clooney to be impossibly, incredibly endearing and charming. It's impossible not to like the guy just by seeing him smile. The problem that some will have with his performance in "The American" is that Clooney rarely smiles. He's somewhat of a disturbed, depressed guy. It's a different performance for the actor, but that is far from a bad thing. I personally found Clooney's character quite interesting. It's not his best performance, but it's one of those efforts that you just kind of have to admire. It's not as if we ever feel attached to the character of Jack; but we follow him anyways. It's good that this film has a hook; and it's good to see that it (almost) never fails to give the audience what we'd want out of Clooney. He is an accomplished performer. This is another one of his good performances.

I don't watch films solely for their story-lines. Some people do; and these people almost always miss the point of a film. "The American" is the kind of film that does not have a mind-blowing, brilliant plot; but it does display very strong filmmaking. Director Anton Corbijn is ambitious, and just wanted to entertain with this film. And he did his job; he has made an entertaining film. But he has also embeds silent, bleak beauty into 'The American", and this is what makes it better-than-average. The film is flawlessly shot; artistic to the core and beautiful to look at. The cinematography should not make the film, and while it doesn't, it's still a damn good attribute to have. The score is also beautiful, and it helps add to the emotional mood that the film tries to create. Sometimes, the drama isn't as effective as it wants to be, and you don't quite "feel" for this character, but it's still a lot of fun to admire this film for its artistic merit; which it definitely has. If the film has a fatal flaw, then it is its lack of appeal. I think I will recommend "The American" for being well-made, well-written, and well-acted; but some will not like it. Is that a warning? I say, absolutely. Take the film as you will.

The Jack character that takes center stage in "The American" is like a modern-day samurai. Samurais are assassins, often wounded by the powers of love. Clooney's character has a similar weakness; and often times falls flat when it comes to such beautiful deception. This was something that I happened to admire a whole lot about "The American", which is not a great spy-thriller, but it still pushes itself far enough to be a good one. The film is daring (not most films would even think about being this bleak), but at the same time it feels restrained. It's not as violent, crass, or vulgar (in language, of course) as some spy-films are. But it has a hint of silent ingenious brilliance hidden underneath its interior. I definitely like the film, and I am excited to see whatever director Anton Corbijn has to offer up next. I'm sure his next film will be just as ambitious and entertaining as this one here; which is not the director's first feature, but his second. He directed "Control", which I indefinitely need to see, and I imagine he will make many more films before his numbers come up. Here's hoping that "The American" will appeal to you as it did to me. Chances are both slim and likely, but no matter what you think of it; the film is somewhat of a work of art. It has artistic flair, visual detail, and extreme emotional effort. It's a film of craft, and features taut story-telling. It's not perfect, and it doesn't end perfectly. But does that mean that I can't like it? No, I can still enjoy a film that is flawed; and "The American" is without a doubt, one of those kinds of films. It has many flaws, but never goes stale. It is bleak, but it is also beautiful. It redeems itself; and I admittedly admire that.

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March 20, 2011
"...may come off as grim and bland" nicely put. I liked this movie quite a bit myself. Nice work with the comparisons to a samurai. Great job, Ryan!!
More The American reviews
review by . February 05, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
A Deliberate, Methodical, Quiet, Moody
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 …
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 . 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
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
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #3
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


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.


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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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