2010 – 105mn – 15

Directed by Anton Corbijn. Starring George Clooney, Violante Placido, Thekla Reuten, Paolo Banocelli.

Review by Walter Nichols

GEORGE Clooney is arguably the bravest of Hollywood’s movie stars. Where others – such as Brad Pitt – will only work with tried-and-proven directors; or – like Jim Carrey – will return to the same genres over and over again; or – that’d be you, Johnny Depp – seem to do nothing other than Tim Burton movies and pirate flicks, Clooney puts his name on the line not only by directing and producing risky, political, grown-up films (Good Night & Good Luck, The Men Who Stare at Goats, Syriana) but has also taken up the habit of working with, and trusting, young indie filmmakers. The practice has brought out his best work, as seen in Michael Clayton (Tony Gilroy’s 1st film), Up In The Air (Jason Reitman’s 3rd film), and Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson’s 6th film). The eclectic mix is one of the reasons Clooney, like doppelganger Cary Grant, will be remembered and written about long after most of his Ocean’s Eleven co-stars are long forgotten.

In The American (the second film by photographer Anton Corbijn, who made Control), Clooney portrays an American weapons maker and assassin who hides out in a small Italian town for one last assignment. As he waits for the hit, he befriends the town priest, engages in an affair with a local woman, and questions his life and choices.

The American is deliberately in the vein of 60s and 70s European cinema – beautifully shot, emotionally subdued, slow-moving, moody and often austere. It’s a thoughtful thriller with not very many thrills, very little violence, but a long, sustained, realistic sex scene. As such it’s obviously not for every one – the man who prefers Transformers might want to skip this one – but it’s an intelligent and impressively crafted example of a type of film they don’t make much anymore these days, and an experience very much worth having.

Clooney is the only recognizable name or face in a very international cast. He’s very good – the tics and head bob at a pleasing low – which isn’t to say you believe his character at all. He’s George Clooney as a somber assassin, like all true movie stars unable to portray anyone other than himself, and that’s a great deal of the pleasure of watching him.

The marketing of The American is noticeably honest, the poster a throwback to 1960s class and the trailer as atmospheric and low on explosions as the film itself, so odds are if you liked the look of it before reading this review, you’ll like watching the thing itself. If you thought it looked cool and dull, the film – perhaps unfortunately – won’t change your mind.

Star rating: 3 out of 5 stars