The American ★★★★
(USA, 103 min)
Dir: Anton Corbijn; Writ: Rowan Joffe
Starring: George Clooney, Paolo Bonacelli, Violante Placido, Thekla Reuten.
After seeing the first few frames of The American, it comes as no surprise that Corbijn’s background is in photography. The film has a beautiful emptiness to the staging of the exterior scenes. Perhaps it’s symbolic of the American himself – Jack, an aging hit-man/ arms manufacturer played by George Clooney. Interestingly, Jack’s cover story is that he’s in Italy as a photographer. The American is composed of striking deep-focus landscape shots blended with an array of scenes bathed in arresting artificial lights. The American will probably be enjoyed most as a one-hour and forty-three minute exercise in contemporary photography.
Perhaps it’s because Jack is such a quiet killer that he’s so interesting. He’s reminiscent of the stoic Man-With-No-Name character of Italian westerns (and we’re made to recognize the point when Jack and a bartender watch a Sergio Leone film). Like most westerns, The American is more about morals and redemption than it is about action. It’s a drawn out affair, but since Clooney and Corbijn consistently hold our attention, it’s a bloody good one too.