Sunday, October 9, 2011

The American

By s. Sunday, October 9, 2011 , , , , , ,
(105 min, 2010)
Director: Anton Corbijn
Writers: Rowan Joffe (screenplay), Martin Booth (novel)
Stars: George Clooney, Paolo Bonacelli and Violante Placido


Alone among assassins, Jack (George Clooney) is a master craftsman. When a job in Sweden ends more harshly than expected for this American abroad, he vows to his contact Pavel that his next assignment will be his last. Jack reports to the Italian countryside, where he holes up in a small town and starts constructing weapon for another assassin.

We meet Jack (or Edward) as he sits in the house with a naked woman. He has serious expression, he looks very sullen and detached. And that is how he will remain for most of the movie. He is a professional, he doesn't really have a life apart from his job, he doesn't have any friends. For his new assignment, he is sent to Italy. All he does there is drinking coffee, working out, hanging out with a priest who took an interest in him, visiting a brothel where he has sex with a prostitute named Clara and constructing weapon for Mathilde (Thekla Reuten) which is his new assignment.

And this is the mission which will change him. Why? Didn't he ever met someone like Clara before? Didn't anyone want to kill him before? The movie doesn't answer any of this questions. Everything and everyone is mysterious – we know nothing about Edward, Clara or Mathilde apart from what we see on screen. Neither of the dialogues in the movie reveals anything useful to us about those characters' backgrounds. That has it up and down side – the up side is that the characters in “The American” are completely unpredictable – when Mathilde gives Jack the riffle and tells him to shoot two steps from her, you have no idea what he will do. The down side is that it's hard to care for any of those people, but as the movie progressed I kept wishing well for Clooney's character. His life was so closed and claustrophobic, even if he is an assassin he deserves a bit of happiness in it. He seems to be so used to his way of life that when Clara seems genuinely interested in him he suspects her of the worst intentions. That's how destroyed he became over the years.

Another thing is that we have no idea when any of them is lying. We don't know whether Clara really loves Jack or whether she is setting him up. We can trust Jack's actions because we know what he primarily wants is to survive. By the end of the movie his dreams and feelings will become clear, but before that he is a big question mark. There are subtle clues about him – he has butterfly tattoo on his back – I interpreted this one as the sign of hidden vulnerability and fragility. After all he can feel and he can care about someone else deeply. Also – the butterflies also are endangered and spend most of their lives escaping from the ones who want to kill them. But they are being admired for their beauty, they are always noticed – this is something Jack avoids. The story where he finds redemption through talking to the priest and falling in love with a hooker is as cliché as it can get, fortunately it is shown in a very elegant, stylish way which places it pretty far from usual hit man movie standards. Out of all the movies about assassins made, this one shows the desperation of solitude the best.

Anton Corbijn's movie starts off very slow and picks up the pace after at least half of hour into the film. And it's as far from action movie as it can be – there are few chase scenes but the film mostly focuses on its characters, things they do and they say. It's realistic, yet the unusually enchanting setting, delicate score and beautiful cinematography give it a lot of light charm. The acting is very good, Clooney delivers as always, but I feel he should really chose different roles – he is not the same as in “Michael Clayton” but he is coming pretty damn close to copying his magnificent performance in few scenes. Having said that, he is perfect for the role – cold, captivating stare and dashing looks. Wonderful leading man.

The movie definitely has interesting vibe to it and there is a lot in it to admire. There are many memorable scenes, including passionate sex scene between Jack and Clara, the lake scenes and the ambiguous ending. It's not as boring as most of the people claim but I can imagine this is not the type of movie that will interest many.


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