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The American

The American (2010) – Rated R for violence, sexual content, and nudity.

When I walked out of this film I told my colleagues that I was split on how I felt about it.  I was in awe of this film’s beauty but at the same time I was kind of bored by how slow the pacing was.  I also fear that the audience will be disappointed if they go into this film expecting George Clooney’s version of a Jason Bourne or James Bond movie.  But if you know that this is an art-house film that is beautifully shot yet still has an interesting story, then you will not be disappointed.

This film is based on “A Very Private Gentleman” by Martin Booth, which has been described as a brilliantly creepy psychological suspense novel.  Although I’ve never read the novel myself, I’ve read that the film actually follows the story pretty closely without making too many changes or liberties.  George Clooney plays Jack, a man who seems to be at his breaking point with his profession (whatever that may be).  I believe we are to assume that he is an assassin but his “last job” is to make a custom-made weapon for an anonymous client so I think he’s actually a technical weapons expert who creates weapons for other assassins.  Either way, his boss tells him that he was lost his edge and it seems that he agrees with him.  He knows he’s being followed but he’s not sure by whom.  And he’s ready to get out of this lifestyle, which requires him to not form any meaningful relationships and remain a ghost.  It seems to be his only flaw that he craves human relationships, whether they be a romantic one with a prostitute or a friendly one with a priest.

Clooney does a great job playing a man with a lot on his mind and ready to protect himself at any time.  With his talent and charisma, Clooney was perfectly cast.  Even in the scenes where he is just looking through his camera lens out his window, his eyes say so much and nothing more is needed.  Director Anton Corbijn knew how to focus the camera on Clooney’s expressions just long enough to let his face tell the story.  And the original music by Herbert Gronemeyer, though very minimalistic, was also perfect.  It was especially noticeable during all the beautiful scenery shots that cinematographer Martin Ruhe captured for the film. 

As I said at the beginning of this review, the pacing of the story is very slow but if you stick around long enough you’ll end up appreciating this beautiful film.  If you go in expecting Bourne or Bond, you’ll end up bored.  But if you go in knowing what to expect you’ll understand that Clooney’s understated performance and the gorgeous scenery make this film a worthwhile watch.  Filmtastic review = 4 stars.

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