Saturday, December 18, 2010

The American - A Gritty Thriller

Father Benedetto: [speaking to Jack] You cannot deny the existence of hell. You live in it. It is a place without love.

This quote from one of the character's in the movie pretty much sums up the curse that is bestowed on Jack/Edward (George Clooney) owing to the nature of his work. George Clooney is The American, an expert gun handler/gun assembler for the most deadliest of missions. Suave, cold and calculating Jack is disciplined at what he does. He has trained himself to never get attached to the people or places that he encounters in his life, for in his line of work that amounts to a fatal flaw. As the shocking opening scene unfolds we realize that Jack lives by his code of emotional detachment. He is the thorough professional- observant, meticulous and with rigid work ethics. He has a way with machines, as he skillfully assembles gun parts and fixes automobiles. When a failed attempt is made at his life, he turns to the one man he answers to: Pavel, who commands him to lie low in a small picturesque village in Italy where he is assigned a job of meeting a woman named Mathilde, and to help her assemble a gun for her mission. "Don't talk to anyone, and above all don't make any friends" Pavel instructs him, underlining the fact that a man in a profession as his is expected to be bereft of any form of attachments.

He moves in to the sparsely populated Castel Del Monte, a small village situated between the mountains. He meets an inquisitive priest as a photographer, yet he never seems attached to the locale as you never see him take photos of the people or the scenic landscape, following Pavel's instructions. Jack/Edward in search of carnal desires (expect a  graphic sex scene which may leave some uncomfortable) frequents a brothel where he falls for Clara, he befriends her and as expected falls in love with her. With killers on the lookout The American has to decide fast if he should live a life by his rules and walk away from Clara, or should he find a way out to start life afresh with her. The American is directed by an Anton Corbijn, a Dutchman known for his still photography. It is no wonder that the serene village in Italy is captured with such finesse that each frame seems as perfect as a picture postcard. Based on the novel "A Very Private Gentleman" the film shows the George Clooney as the gentleman who measures every word he speaks.

"The American" could be this year's most misunderstood movie, what with George Clooney fans having assumed this to be as racy as a Jason Bourne flick by watching the trailer. They would be thoroughly disappointed if they expect him to deliver some cool and funny lines and kill the bad guys with the panache of a James Bond. There is minimal of action, and even minimal dialogues spoken in the movie. The story unfolds at a lethargic pace with edge-of-the-seat action thrown here and there. The movie focuses on George Clooney the very private assassin who keeps to himself, as he tours the village and meticulously plans and assembles the gun required for Mathilde's mission.

George Clooney pulls of the role of a killer as naturally as that of a brand ambassador for the Omega brand of watches. With not much dialogues to work with, Clooney expresses through his eyes. He expresses the ruthlessness of an assassin and the warmth of a love-struck man all with a blink. The director is in complete control of the movie, never do we see the story losing focus. Every frame is filmed with a purpose thanks to the tight screenplay. It may be unfair to brand "The American" as a bore, George Clooney who may have brought in people owing to his brand would have left many disappointed since they may have expected chase scenes, buildings blown up, and lines exuding coolness of the uber-cool assassin. But if you are one of those people who love to watch a good tightly scripted cerebral thriller which never goes overboard, then you ought to fix a date with The American.

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Harish said...

Clooney is a favorite.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen The American yet but I like the sound of it.
Far too many films rely on car chases and explosions rather than good acting and an intelligent script nowadays but The American sounds like an exception to the rule.
Great review !

Anuraag Seshadri said...

Clooney has grown as a great actor, with movies like Up in the Air and Michael Clayton certifying his versatility.

@ Paul

It is one of the most intelligent movies made this year. Almost like Frederick Forsythe's "The Day of the Jackal"

Anonymous said...

That's a good recomendation Anuraaq because the original The Day Of The Jackal was an excellent thriller!