Tuesday, 26 October 2010


Universal Pictures
Now Showing

That George Clooney's latest film, The American, opened at #1 at the US box office with some $16 million comes as a surprise. Not that it's a bad film: it's a well crafted, intelligent thriller. But not the kind that usually has people rushing to the cinema.

Just as surprised, I'd suggest, were a fair chunk of that opening weekend audience who no doubt turned out in response to the presence of a reliable leading man and the marketing of the film as a thriller. But The Bourne Ultimatum it's not.

Dutch photographer-cum-director, Anton Corbijn, has crafted his second feature, adapted by Rowan Joffe from the novel A Very Private Gentleman by Martin Booth, with a very European aesthetic: minimal dialogue, open-ended scenes, a mature depiction of both sex (pubic hair!?) and violence (matter-of-fact and uncool), and very little action. Not for teenage boys, Corbijn's thriller is a deliberate slow burn.

Jack/Edward (Clooney) is an assassin who wants out; an incident in Sweden, the film's opening scene, the final straw. Of course, as anyone knows, as Jack surely must, you don't retire from this game, you get retired. Hiding out in an Italian village, Jack takes on one last job - to build a custom-designed rifle - at the request of his employer whom he only ever makes contact with via phone.

While he builds the gun, Jack engages in philosophical musings with the local priest (Paolo Bonacelli), and develops a more than professional relationship with a prostitute, Clara (the wonderfully contrarily named Violante Placido).

Some have found The American too cool – as in glacial – but those with patience will find rewards. Similarly, fans of the 'charming' Mr. Clooney may be at a loss but those prepared to see the actor dim his bulb, but not his intellect, will also be pleasantly surprised.

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