Saturday, November 26, 2011

The American. B+

Influenced heavily by Westerns and seventies European thrillers, Anton Corbijn's The American is a surprising mainstream release, even with George Clooney in the title role. The film came out Labor Day weekend last year and won the weekend box office due to Clooney's presence and that the film was promoted as a thriller ruled by action and white knuckle suspense. It's no surprise that The American pretty much vanished from the box office after that first weekend. But I liked it. I don't need a thriller to move quickly to be gripping. The slow, gloomy approach that Corbijn takes really allows for tension to build while also quietly developing his characters (the central ones here are Clooney, a priest, and a prostitute with whom he forms a romantic bond). Shot in Italy, Corbijn is clearly interested in the scenery, as there are numerous sweeping shots of Clooney driving through the country, much like the ones Leone used in his Spaghetti Westerns. As for Clooney's character, there's not a whole lot of depth to be had, but there doesn't need to be. Think Shane in Europe and the mystery surrounding Clooney's American becomes appealing and even haunting. While certainly derivative, The American never comes across as a stock piece of work. It's just too simple and stark a film to not be seen on its own and without reverting to cinema history. The film has a accumulated a decent following, and I would include myself among them.

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