Directed by: Anton Corbijn
Premise: An assassin (George Clooney) hides in a rural Italian community and falls for a local woman (Violante Placido).
What Works: The American is a very strong example of cinematic craft. This is a beautiful looking movie with many images of rich color and depth. Sound is also used effectively in The American with extended moments of silence that create empty aural spaces in which George Clooney’s character stalks and is stalked in the maze-like streets of the town.
What Doesn’t: The American is not a slam-bang, shoot-em-up action film; this is an intimate character study and should be evaluated as such. Yet even as that, the film fails to distinguish itself. The key to making a character study work is having an interesting character to study but Clooney’s assassin is a vacant, personality-free character and the woman he falls for is a Western stereotype of the prostitute with a heart of gold. The artistic flourishes of The American fail to save it from spy and assassin genre clichés seen in films like Killers, In Bruges, Assassins, Casino Royale, and Grosse Pointe Blank, namely the lonely assassin who reconnects with his humanity through the love of a good woman. As the film progresses it does little but roll through the clichés and comes to an ending that does not bring about any significant conclusions for the viewer either about the character, about violence or love, or about this film genre.
Bottom Line: The American is great to look at and director Anton Corbijn certainly shows a great deal of talent but the story of this film just does not have any substance to it.
Episode: #305 (September 12, 2010)