Director: Anton Corbijn Release date: 26/11/10 Starring: George Clooney, Violante Placide, Paolo Bonacelli. The American, ironically, is a distinctly un-American film. Although a tense and, at times, gripping thriller with Hollywood A-lister George Clooney taking the leading role, The American is not infused with lavish and unnecessary special effects but is instead a dark and brooding, seemingly low budget, story of a hit man struggling to form any kind of relationships in a world where he remains constantly suspicious of everyone he meets. The American is the story of Jack, an aging hit man played by George Clooney who, after being discovered hiding in Sweden by a group out for revenge, must flee to a remote town in Italy where he can lay low until it is safe for him to leave. During his time in the town he begins to form relationships with some of the people, most notably the local priest and a prostitute whilst at the same dodging the men still after him and mistrusting those he encounters. Clooney is superb throughout the film as the damaged hero, a role he has become accustomed to through films such as Syriana and Michael Clayton. However, his performance, although thrilling, doesn’t quite reach the truly spectacular Oscar nominated feats of the aforementioned films. Clooney is not the only actor deserving of decorations though as Paolo Bonacelli is extremely convincing as the guiding priest and Violante Placido is very promising as the prostitute that Clooney allows past his protective exterior and into his life. Special mention must also be made of Anton Corbijn who made the move from music and band documentaries with baby steps when he directed 2007s Control, the story of Ian Curtis lead singer of Joy Division but who has now taken one giant leap into film making with this piece. I say piece as Corbijn’s film feels more like an attempt at a work of art than at an entertaining and engrossing film. The small town Italian backdrop is stunning from the clouds sweeping effortlessly to the terracotta style roofing used in quite spectacular aerial shots. However the backdrop is not without its purpose; the tight and narrow streets make for excellent chases and shootouts; the bullet ricochets shattering the peaceful silence and echoing through the village. The snowy backdrop to the opening scene is also breathtaking and helps add to the film's phenomenal opening, and perhaps premature peak.
This is a film that arguably promised so much and could have delivered a brilliant spy like thriller with an almost aging Jason Bourne-like figure at its heart. Instead the movie is at times a little slow and the unexplained hunt for Clooney, although not bothering at first, does start the mind wondering at a question that is left frustratingly unanswered. Despite its faults, this is still a solid film and well worth a watch. At times the story can grip you and every piercing sound, from the gun-fire to the soundtrack, makes you sit up and take note. And although the real entertainment factor is lost in the dizzying maze of rustic Italian streets this is a film with real heart, a leading man with true style and certainly a director to keep an eye on.