Anyone going into this film expecting just an average spy film will be quite surprised with this film.
The movie follows the character Jack (Clooney), a man who appears to be a sort of spy or hit man. We start with him in an isolated cabin with his lover, Ingrid played by Irina Björklund. Things seem to be going fine until some assassins come out to kill Jack. Jack eliminates the assassins, but in the process, Irina is killed. After the event, Jack goes to Rome to meet his employer, Pavel (Leysen). Pavel informs him that the killings are in the media and he needs to go underground for a while in a small town, and while there finish a final job that doesn’t involve any deaths.
After arriving in the town, Jack meets with the client for the job he was given named Mathilde (Reuten). His task is to construct a powerful sniper rifle. Jack gets to work on the rifle, but still has time to explore the small town and make acquaintances with the priest, Father Benedetto (Bonacelli). Additionally, he begins a relationship with a prostitute named Clara (Placido). Yet he can’t get too comfortable, because he eventually finds out that the town isn’t as safe as he thought.
“The American” is what can be referred to as a slow burn type film. The picture goes by slowly, but this never means it’s boring. Because the picture never moves too quickly, scenes are able to fully develop, an atmosphere is always established and every sequence has a feeling of gravity.
As the movie goes along, there’s a great deal of balance that’s presented. From Jack’s romance with Clara, to his ongoing life in his dangerous job and even his friendship with the priest, there are many themes presented giving the movie a great deal of depth.
On top of all this, the movie features absolutely gorgeous cinematography, with many long shots that show off the beautiful landscape. Plus, the lighting is fantastic, especially since it utilizes colors to help set the tone of a scene.
The main character Jack was very interesting to follow in two ways. First, seeing him try to move away from his career and try to find some peace in life is both engaging and suspenseful because his past keeps trying to catch up with him. Second, the film also portrays him as an ‘artist,’ in a sense. It does this through showing the audience how he constructs a rifle. It wasn’t some quick assembly, it was calculating craftsmanship that showed Jack’s skill. Clooney completely nailed this whole role and was one of his best performances in a while.
The side characters were good, too. Johan Leysen, for example, made for a very cold character in Pavel. He was definitely able to put out that evil persona in his character, every time he talked to Jack it was very chilling and there was a bad vibe around him. Violante Placido did well as the character Clara also, she really added to the relationship between Clara and Jack. A romance that really went from lust to love, and did it well.
We really are able to see from Jack’s perspective of why he built a relationship with her. Paolo Bonacelli was solid in his role of the priest Father Benedetto. He played the role of an advice giver to Jack and also gave the vibe that he had a bit of a troubled history as well.
The American was one of the best pictures of 2010. It’s suspenseful, exciting and has a lot of emotional weight. I have to put this at a 5 out of 5.