Once again, I have to give a shout out to the trailer folks out there that completely made a film look nothing like it actually is. Thusly, when going into "The American" don't expect the espionage tinged thriller that is depicted on the trailers. It's a film that is character and atmosphere driven which is ironically light on action and dialogue. Which perhaps made it so much better then it had any right to be.
Jack (Clooney) had some shit come down on him. As a professional killer, his life is one of unbalance and rapid shifting. When he is thrust into a smaller Italian village to wait out and perform a gun crafting job for an assassination, he finds himself desperately clinging onto anything to give him peace. He finds some of this in the friendship struck with a local priest and in the eyes of a charming call girl. When he realizes that his latest gig might not be all that its cracked up to be, he must make amends for all of his wrongs and try to do the one thing he has never done. Find peace.
After reading a slew of mixed reviews on this film, I decided to finally take the plunge on it and check it out. Hell, I love espionage films. Why not? What I got with "The American" was a slow burning and subtle character driven film that was relatively light on the espionage and action and focused on character. Something we see so rarely in the genre, honestly. It was a breath of fresh air. The seemingly long moments of silence. The low key energy and score. The use of the settings and slow build of Clooney's enigmatic character. It's all brilliantly paced and executed. Although by the end, the audience knows nothing about Jack we still have an innate connection to him and his constant grasping for personal salvation that it relates to all of us even on smaller levels. It's this connection and drive that makes this film a riveting watch despite its slow moving and relatively long play time.
"The American" also handedly uses its 60s style drama approaches to filming and touches of Italian pizazz to give us something refreshingly old school in an age where espionage in film is rarely about being sneaky or subtle. The long drawn out shots, the splashes of intense color here and there, and the great combination of silence and sound effects make for a visual and auditory experience that really brings to life this peaceful village and contrasts it to a very intense and quiet man. The execution on all ends is stunning.
Although the re-emergence of a stronger Bond and a slick and modern Bourne have set new standards for how spy flicks work, "The American" takes the genre back to its roots and shaves away all of the fluff and glitz to give us what made these films so great to begin with. A character to truly root for in a world intent on not seeing the truth.
Written By Matt Reifschneider