Starring: George Clooney, Thekla Reuten, Violante Placido
Director: Anton Corbijn
Running Time: 105 mins
The American is an American film about a veteran hitman who is deployed to a small Italian town to carry out a hit, however both his conscience and the events of his past make his time there particularly uneasy.
What this film really has going for it is an undying commitment to telling its story in a very unique way. We all know about stories following hitmen and their inevitable inner conflict with morality, but The American takes a much more patient and pensive approach to telling a tale well-trodden by blockbusters.
Director Anton Corbijn deserves immense praise for his commitment to keeping a very blockbuster-friendly plot so calm and patient, and while there’s certainly a case to be made that his style isn’t always the best approach, The American is certainly a unique watch throughout.
We’ll get more into where the style falls down later on, but first things first, this film’s maturity and depth are really impressive, made all the more effective by that slower, reflective style.
There are a number of long, almost dialogue-free sequences in this movie, but they’re without doubt some of the best moments of all. While the few bursts of action are definitely welcome, the movie really shines when it says so much by saying so little.
I realise that’s a bit of a cheesy cliché, but I really mean it. Particularly in the film’s second half, the build up of emotional intrigue is given a lot of room to breathe in the quieter sequences, and that makes it a whole lot more captivating to ponder.
Simply put, this is more of a thinking movie than an action movie, although its slower pace is actually one of the most entertaining things about it too.
It’s not all about wall-to-wall action, but the patient and quiet narrative style gives Clooney’s profession as a hitman a really cool, sleek elegance, especially when he’s dealing with his agency in thrillingly secretive fashion.
Clooney’s performance is as effortlessly cool as always, and the Italian setting only makes him all the more slick in the lead role. However, Thekla Reuten arguably steals the show with a number of brief but eye-catching appearances throughout as a fellow member of Clooney’s agency.
All of this paints the picture of a patient and effortlessly cool movie that takes a typical action story and strips it down to a genuinely thought-provoking personal drama.
That’s very true, however there is a case to be made that director Corbijn’s style perhaps pushes the boat out a little too far. As elegant and reflective as the movie is, there are some periods where it really doesn’t have all that much of interest to say, particularly as we follow Clooney’s blossoming relationship with a local prostitute.
It’s a key part of the story and the film’s emotional core, but it all comes across as a little forced and out-of-left-field in comparison to the rest of the plot, proving more of a distraction or at least a simple plot device than anything else.
Saying that, The American still has a lot of strengths, and it certainly deserves high praise for its bold and unique approach to telling a story familiar to blockbuster cinema. Complete with great performances, a perfect setting and an effortlessly sleek atmosphere, the film uses its slow, quiet style to great effect throughout, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.6 overall.