If you came in looking for people jumping off roofs/ trains/ planes, fast racing cars, squealing tyres on cobbled roads and rapid rounds of gunfire then this is not your movie. Anton Corbijn’s “The American” is the second take on action films. The kind in which the camera lingers on the laconic protagonist who roams deserted towns with picturesque landscapes and silently waits, watches and kills. He’s a sharp shooter who knows his big gun as well as his sultry woman. If this reminded you of Clint Eastwood or Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (Il Buono, il Brutto, il Cattivo), then you’ve got it bang on! In fact, in order to pay homage to this now extinct genre, Corbijn subtly inserts a scene from the above mentioned movie when Edward (George Clooney) is sitting in an empty café and silently waiting.
The introspective minimalist thriller has a single line plot which is executed beautifully. The opening scene features Edward (aka Jack) shooting a woman in the back. Not exactly the kind of character you’d sympathize with. So he’s an assassin on the run who escapes to his hideaway in a remote Italian village and awaits his next assignment.Passing time by either visiting Father Benedetto, a local priest, or with his enchantress, Clara, a voluptuous prostitute, Edward finally gives in to love and wants to break free from his riske profession. He calls in his final assignment and constructs a highly specialized gun for a stunning hitman (Thekla Reuten). But you can’t just get up one fine day and decide not to be a hired killer. Can you?Instead of having a convoluted plot with coincidences taking it forward, Corbijn keeps it real and simple. The focus is on Edward’s character which is masterfully played by Clooney. Barely a few words part his lips and yet he conveys so much emotion, madness, torment and drama. A not be missed scene in the anticlimax is him driving with a gunshot wound in his arm. Bravo!
There are sweeping long shots of the scenic Italian countryside, incandescent close-ups and haunting piano score with intermittent brief spurts of action instead of the whole shaky camera thing with pumped up songs and back to back action sequences. The silence is truly unnerving.
Those of you looking for fast and loud action packed thrillers might find it quite slow and be highly disappointed. This is more for those with an arty eye or looking for a new perspective.