Newest Review: ... with Sergio Leone's Westerns. The intentions are clear from the start as the film slowly progresses through an opening scene that not only... more
Corbijn and Clooney ooze some quiet class and style
The American (DVD)
Member Name: pmcds
The American (DVD)
Advantages: Clooney, patience, class and style
Disadvantages: Not deep enough
Filled with gentle and smooth nods to a few stylish films, The American itself is a highly stylish spy thriller, with George Clooney starring as Jack, an assassin's gunsmith due to do one last job before retirement, holing up in a small Italian village in order to stay out of trouble.
Anton Corbijn directs a strangely subdued Clooney, devoid of the usual charm and full of caution, angst and uncertainty as he tries to characterise Jack with extremely limited lines, the film doing a lot of the storytelling and development through visual elements and its score, lifted occasionally from Morricone's legendary musical work with Sergio Leone's Westerns. The intentions are clear from the start as the film slowly progresses through an opening scene that not only tells us it's going to be slow and with not a lot of speaking, but also letting us know there'll be no shying away from the violent nature of being an assassin.
It takes the more stylish elements of films such as the Bourne series and snatches the idyllic European streets shown in Nic Roeg's Don't Look Now, even if the water filled Venice is replaced with the cobbled stretches and dusty mountain paths and roads that set this film's languid location alongside its pace. Most of the telling comes from Clooney's impressive acting, with a supporting cast that do okay but never really look like being particularly memorable. George is a bit out of his comfort zone, not relying on his smile, charm and velvet voice for once. However, he delivers, his acting skills coming through with his ability to adopt emotions and feelings, shown throughout the film.
Yet despite the elements adopted from other films, a beautiful location and Clooney's class showing through, there's something not quite working here. It's almost as if that by trying to focus more on the unfolding of circumstances and giving it some style, it lacks the vibrancy and energy that could have lifted it to be excellent. Essentially, what it does it does very well, but there's just not quite enough substance to it for me. The plot is very basic and rather simple, and while it follows something that might unfold much like a Coen brothers film, it doesn't have the depth of character or range of different angles that the brothers often bring to the screen.
I still liked it though, and it has moments of brilliant patience, letting Clooney and the camera and the score substitute the verbal support it lacks. I found it easy to watch throughout, only wishing there was more depth a couple of times, and it's an inoffensive film despite the violence that occasionally rises its head, choosing mainly to remain unspoken and assumed. Corbijn's presentation and determination for class and style work well enough, and the result is a success.
Summary: Decent spy thriller that restricts the action