Sunday, September 19, 2010

"The American" (2010) - Movie Review

“The American” takes a traditional assassin thriller and does nothing but put some art to it. It does not glorify the killing machine and the killer does not look for sympathy. He yearns for a calmness as any middle aged assassin would aspire for from what we have learned from the education of Hollywood killer films. If George Clooney claims to have selected this role based on the screenplay then I would have to seriously doubt his sense of observation as the screenplay cannot be more straightforward, simple and a bee line inappropriate in this story. I think he believed in the director and the meeting should have been in that place in Italy where the film happens. May be Anton Corbijn is a good marketing person or his casting director Beatrice Kruger is.

Jack or Edward (George Clooney) has no one to trust and he begins to hate this game. As the film opens an attempt is made on his life as he spends in the hidden snow land of Sweden. He flees to Italy and his employer Pavel (Johan Leysen) asks him to, you guessed it “lay low”. Jack does so in a little small hill town where the clouds can kiss its shadows and it is not the place Pavel mentioned. Edward/Jack does the usual, practicing target shots in a serene hidden place, make some connection with a priest (Paolo Bonacelli) and develop romantic interest with a prostitute (Violente Placido). A typical assassin getaway.

There is an elegance in “The American” which in its used up plot has a charm and depth in the blankness of this killer. George Clooney is an interesting man. In his tempting sharp look, he has a deserving tiredness. His character is getting old for this business as any one would in any career. They would hit the point for some sanity and control. Clooney’s Jack is utterly devoid of permanent relationships. Trust is not the word which runs smooth in his line of work.

The man gets one last job and this is not to take a contract but to provide a perfect equipment for a sufficiently well versed new comer. The scenes with Mathilda (Thekla Reuten) are nothing short of tension. Both killers know that anytime they will turn on each from either of their employers. There is a particularly impressive scene wherein Edward takes her to his “happy” place for testing the rifle. There she turns her back and walks to place her target and Edward looks at her with a suspicion to pull the trigger which is so precise but dismisses. Then she lets him take a shot near her to gage the loudness and performance. This is a tango like no other in the emotions of these two people running through tension, calmness and tons of doubt.

Corbijn wants completion in the simplest act of a scene. He waits for the automatic door to be shut and an arrangement of bullets to be immaculate. I think Clooney wanted to make something new out of a worn out character. As the rule book for contract killers goes, one should not speak and Jack speaks sparsely yet he is able to make a connection with Clara the prostitute with statements speaking clearer than silence. Clara sees the mystery in him and thus the attraction is imminent. Also forgot the fact that it is George Clooney but she is devilishly beautiful.

“The American” could have been a fashion show of beautiful people but it makes them beautiful believable people with secrets and torment. Jack’s trouble is in the misery of his existence in being aloof, completely. As the adrenaline spiked down and the grey hairs caught up to him, he has truly understood the nature of living. As much as cold and brutal he has led his life when “The American” happens, his conscience has grown out.

Even in the soothing sceneries of the Italy achieved with a lovely cinematography by Martin Ruhe, there is a hand of simplicity. In the whole scheme of the film, this nature of being there and not becoming a great statement or trying to make one moulds this predictable twists into forgiving ones. We are not bothered by the end of this man but the story of his intrigues us. Death is at every corner in this stone road town and his day runs by with watchful eyes and restless walks. While his job demands this, for some reason I believe Jack did it without fear of death when he began his career and now he does with every bit of his heart.


Bombay Belle said...

Your review is so tragically good that it makes the film sound better than it is! Had I read your review, I'd actually have more expectation out of this terrible movie.
All in all the plot lacked essence, at the end I thought to myself... what was the point of this? The parts that put me off the most were tasteless sex scenes. There was no art to full frontal nudity. I'm all for a tasteful bare butt thrown in here and there, even a bare boob. They made it worse by showing the actual sex. It was vulgar, not beautiful.
The frequent nudity was thrown in there to keep the viewer engaged. Actually, it did the trick. I remember more about George Clooney going down on the hooker than I do him arranging bullets or drinking coffee or reading the paper?
I'll give you one thing though, the end scene was immaculately done. I was floored. How Clooney bangs the steering wheel, the look of betrayal when he finds out that he was shot and how his bloody hands reach out towards the windshield so close to touching his lady love. Sigh. Now if only the rest of the film was this moving, I would have loved it.
The American makes Easy A look like film of the year.

Ashok said...

I delved on your reaction towards the sex scene in the film. Off the whole film, that did not stick to my mind to be honest as it finished it purpose right after the scene when Clooney's Edward stating "I am not here to give pleasure but to get it" and Clara replying "May be I am good at pretending". There has to be a connection made out there in their romance and that out there does it. While I have been pretty conservative opinions in unnecessary use of explicit scenes, it did not occur to me out here.

"The American" is a film like "No Country for Old Men" which has a precision in every scene. Coen brothers does an immaculate job in that film in presentation that I forgot about the people. It is a film I admire but not completely love though I am getting into the groove of Coens' direction. "The American" falls in the same category. It does not serve a purpose or plot but a simple short story with punctuating scenes and apt shots of the locale of Italy. I can see why people dislike it but I am little surprised for your strong dislike :-). But then again, after "Inception" we have to disagree strongly on something :-P. Here it goes :-).