Sep 062010
Authors: Jason Berlinberg

Three and a half out of five stars

Anticipating yet another full-fledged action thriller with “The American,” imagine my surprise to find out that it is actually something original.

The film stars George Clooney as Jack, an assassin-type who hides out in Italy while finishing up a job. But to the unknowing civilian he is Edward, a magazine photographer simply taking pictures of the beautiful Italian vistas.

The surprisingly uneventful narrative involves Jack’s romantic involvement with a prostitute, conversations with a priest and walking inconspicuously around at night. Nice job laying low, Clooney.

Jack’s age and emotions start to inhibit his ability to succeed at his job, leaving him vulnerable to enemies. A large part of the film shows him reflecting on his life trying to escape his haunting past. But in Jack’s line of work, you can’t escape your past.

Director Anton Corbijn does well to explore Jack’s self-reflection, rather than relying on gunfights to be the highlight of the movie. A word of warning, this is not a conventional spy / action movie. It’s a slow-chugging narrative that examines Jack’s perspective on morality and his attempt to deal with past actions.

The same can be said about the rest of the movie. Where other films are loud and heavy on action, “The American” takes a more low-key approach that may not click with everyone.

The music, visuals and occasional scenes of violence are all understated to a point that they become more looming than anything else. This approach is bound to have a divided amount of success with audiences.

While its story is clichéd, “The American” pulls off what it needs to on a small scale while it basks in the glory of its gorgeous landscapes. At the same time, it boasts a very reserved, and perhaps underutilized, performance by Clooney.

Movie reviewer Jason Berlinberg can be reached at

Coming up next:

Winter’s bone

A tale about a young woman’s journey to find her drug-dealing father. The movie was an official selection at 2010’s Sundance Film Festival

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