The American is a thriller which is low in action yet high in old-fashioned suspense.
George Clooney stars as Jack, an experienced assassin who, following a failed attempt on his life, hides out in the remote Italian town of Abruzzo where he is called up for one last job.
One of the film’s major assets is Clooney himself, who carries the film with grace and style. He has clearly matured as an actor and has become more than just a sex symbol. As he showed recently with Up in the Air, he is capable of playing emotionally rounded characters yet never sacrifices his onscreen charm.
Clooney is not the only positive in the film however. Italian actress Violante Placido as a warm hearted prostitute proves to be an incredibly likeable screen presence as well as immensely beautiful. Her romance with Clooney is genuinely passionate and utterly believable.
Visually the film is superb. As the title suggests the leading American man is the outsider and the location is very much the star. The long-shots of Italy are spectacular and enforce the character’s sense of isolation. Additionally the use of sharp colours during the night-time scenes adds to the tension and atmosphere, particularly within one sequence when Jack is stalked by a would-be assassin along the dark secluded cobble streets. It is perhaps no surprise that director Anton Corbijn is also an accomplished photographer. He clearly revels in his artistry as well as paying homage to other Italian directors like Sergio Leone, director of the spaghetti westerns. This could be considered as pretentious; however the photography never impedes the story – in fact quite the contrary.
As I said in the opening those looking for an action packed adventure may wish to look elsewhere as the pacing is relatively slow. However The American succeeds in being a sophisticated, adult thriller which combines the best in both traditional story-telling and European auteurism.