The American

The American has only gotten a 61% approval rating at the Rotten Tomatoes website.(The Kids Are All Right, a contrived and dishonest film, has a 96% approval rating.) I can only assume that some people don’t like understated thrillers. The American is one of the more entertaining films I’ve seen this year.

Jack (George Clooney) is a professional killer who travels throughout Europe. After carrying out a bloody assignment in Sweden, he goes to Rome to meet his boss. The latter sends him to a small town in Italy, where he is to await his next assignment. Ignoring his boss’s orders to keep to himself, Jack becomes romantically involved with a prostitute, Clara (Violante Placido), and he becomes friends with a priest, Father Benedetto (Paolo Bonacelli). The latter begins to act as the conscience that Jack lacks. He tells Jack that Hell is “a world without love”, the implication being that this is the world that Jack inhabits.

Jack is an expert on firearms. He is ordered to construct a rifle for another professional killer, Mathilde (Thekla Reuten). As he does so, Jack begins to suspect that he is being betrayed, but he is not sure by whom or for what reason.

I said before that The American is an understated film. The dialogue is sparse, and the tension builds slowly. The director, Anton Corbijn, is highly adept at creating emotional effects with a minimum of resources. When, for example, Jack suddenly finds himself in an empty cafe, we feel his fear that he is being set up. The scenes of Jack methodically building Mathilde’s rifle serve to draw us into his world. It’s not often you see such skillfulness in a Hollywood film nowadays. Oh, and there are breathtaking shots of the Abruzzo region of Italy.

Highly recommended.

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