“Of course… You’re American. You think you can escape history.”
The conclusion by a priest (Paolo Bonacelli) summons well the essence of a story line for those viewers in audience who are not familiar with the genre – modern western of assassin trying to draw a finish line to his career and exit the harsh business of contracted eliminations where friends are not to be made. All characters are classics in “equation of sin” – killers, prostitutes, priest, shady car mechanic; and so are their relationships, conducts, and nature of conversations. It is easy to guess ending of the story. So the suspense must be elsewhere. What is the magic to look for in this movie?
It is first and foremost sense of solitude – which is the frame for “The American” – both in action, where “Jack” works to finish the last order he has accepted, a custom made gun; as well in Corbijn’s visual language relaying the atmosphere of small town Abruzzo where the story unfolds. Each frame is well planned and result of exact calculation, with perfect composition and matching color scheme. People in the small community are hardly visible, and the few lines they happen to exchange with main character, are of neutral, non-binding nature. Where these seldom contacts are deliberate and play no importance, “Jack’s” relation to Father Benedetto – one of the pillars in story – is missing a depth and never expands to more, that could have revealed possible agony “Jack” was living through. Though as a principle “not to make any friends” and suspect everyone is what “Jack” is to follow in order to survive.
Clooney’s “Jack” aka “Edward” (and Mr. Butterfly…) is conveniently dry and minimalistic, a man with few words – even his way of chewing a gum conveys his determination and focus. He is a skillful craftsman who tries to sell image of being a photographer shooting landscapes, not people, but his hands and secretive behavior go unnoticed for those willing to read people. Opposite to Clara (Violante Placido, who’s mother, Italian actress Simonetta Stefanelli, played bride for Michael Corleone in Coppola’s “Godfather”), the feminine and cheerful extravert, portrayed as somewhat naïve but still sensible, as she carries a small hand gun to protect herself as “working girl” against clients with harm in mind.
She is honest and easy to read and almost immediately attracts “Jack” first in plain sexual fact but as their relationship evolves as representing a promise how “normal” life with a loving woman would look like if he manages to clear out and exit his dodgy past. And as last, not least, there is yet another professional contractor, who calls herself “Mathilde” – character of a cold, calculated, dominant assassin, playing with gender power, and planting an image of stereotype “German precision”. A younger version of something we can imagine “Jack” used to be when at peak of his career.
“The American” is all in all a solid thriller with moderate suspense, and sublime picture, predictive characters and familiar story line. Easy digest of pretty people and scenery for 105 minutes.
By Kerttu Lohmus.
Extra material: deleted scenes, commentary on “making of…” Subtitles: NO, DK, SE, FI. Photo copyright SF Film A/S. If you have a NOKIA phone its possible to read the reviews from forbrugermania by this app.