You cannot deny the existence of hell. You live in it. It is a place
Ok, so I will watch any movie with George Clooney in it. I even suffered thru Leatherheads (2008) and that was painful! But no such experience with The American, which is based on the novel “A Very Private Gentleman” by Martin Booth. This is a stylish and artsy thriller. The plot is quite simple and the pace is slow at times. There is lots of coffee drinking and gun building and not that much dialogue. But the acting is stellar and the movie is gorgeously shot and directed by Anton Corbijn, whose background in photography shines thru.
Jack (George Clooney) is an assassin with a burnout and a newfound respect for life. His last job did not end well. Because of the “no friends” policy, it ended even worse for his Swedish lady friend. Now he is on the run hiding from gun-toting Swedes with vengeance. Jack’s contact in Rome, Pavel (Johan Leysen), suggests hiding in an Italian hilltop town while the Swedish problem is taken care of. Jack is determined to quit his killing ways, but agrees to take a last job building a custom-made assassin rifle. He obviously missed the memo, which said that it is always bad when somebody tells you to consider something as your last job. Jack heads for the hills. While having secret rendezvous with a mysterious assassin Mathilde (Thekla Reuten) about the last job, Jack manages to have heart-to-hearts with a local priest Father Benedetto (Paolo Bonacelli) and use the services of the local brothel. Jack becomes drawn to another lost soul, the gorgeous prostitute Clara (Violante Placido). They fall in love. That’s when the past and the angry Swedes catch up with Jack. Thankfully the rifle is finally ready and delivered to the buyer, so Jack gets ready to move on. But are Jack and Clara able to find peace together or was Jack right to be suspicious about the purpose of the rifle?
This movie was filmed in the gorgeous Abruzzo region of Italy. In Castel del Monte the town’s dentist closed his practice and had a message on his answering machine explaining that he was “unavailable, due to his appearance in a Hollywood film.” When shooting the market scene in Sulmona the actor playing the cheese lady got a lesson from the real cheese vendor how to sell cheese. This proud vendor did not care that the crew was in the middle of shooting the scene; she saw that the actor was doing it wrong and walked into the scene to give directions.
The American provides a new harder look for George Clooney. A loner who is suffering long-term consequences of his past life – a role he has not played before. Anne Carey, who is one of producers of The American, says that audiences trust Clooney. She also points out that Clooney is an iconic actor and audience trust was very important with this character.
Anton Corbijn directed this movie in a style of a western, with influences from Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone. Corbijn was attracted to the screenplay because it deals with seeking redemption and morally changing your life. How a gun chances a man was also an interesting theme to Corbijn.
Violante Placido (Clara) has said that she finds the ending endearing. She thinks that all of us can come to a point when we think our life cannot change, so in that’s sense the characters can give you the possibility to realize that you can free yourself.
Come away with me
I found The American to be a sad story about a man who wants to change, but at the end the universe is against it. The lesson of this movie might be that while the past is past and you can change, sometimes you are like Tim Riggins from Friday Night Lights and just cannot catch a break.
Cuby and the Blizzards – Window of my Eyes