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5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Visually immense

Author: Brancliffe from United Kingdom
20 June 2011

I am a big Clooney fan and this did not disappoint. Visually the film was a feast for the eyes. Architecturally, the audience was really spoiled with the townscapes, often taken from directly above to provide a map-like view capitalising on the different textures created by the cobbled streets, stairways, roof-scenes and panoramic views. Fantastic. And because so much of the film was shot in quite historic settings, I thought Jack/Eduardo's (Clooney's) physical appearance had perhaps been deliberately managed to look almost 1960's - with his exaggerated side-burns and quite close-cropped hair. And this was complemented very well by the wardrobe choice, all adding to the overall effect. Staying with the narrative theme for a moment longer, I also really appreciated the technique used to define Jack/Eduardo's developing personal relationship with Clara - the indistinct lighting at first followed by brighter clearer scenes as this evolved. Yes the film was dramatic in terms of plot and it was certainly thrilling, but for me the way this was filmed made the story-telling so much more. I'd thoroughly recommend this film.

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5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

A spare, subtle film with some action, not an action film.

Author: k-hill
6 September 2010

I'm not surprised that some people are bored by this film. It has a very deliberate pace and doesn't fall into the typical action film trap of keeping your attention by constant movement. Instead, it is a subtle and spare portrait of the isolation and emptiness of a professional hit man. Clooney does a fine job of portraying a middle aged hit man who has found himself alone and unfulfilled at a critical point in his life. The film is the anti-Bourne film. It does not glamorize the life of a paid assassin. For those who want violence, murder and action, this isn't your film. For those who want to reflect on the emptiness of such a life, you may find the film rewarding.

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6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

You cannot doubt the existence of hell. You live in it. It is a place without love.

Author: Ben Larson from Leesburg, FL
9 March 2011

The story opens in Sweden, where Finnish star Irina Björklund gets a chance to act with George Clooney, but it is a short assignment. We immediately suspect that Clooney is some kind of hired killer.

Clooney heads to a small Italian town, where he does a job for Thekla Reuten. When he is not working, he spends time with a priest (Paolo Bonacelli) and with a prostitute (Violante Placido).

The scenes with Placido are exquisite. She is exquisite.

The time spent with the priest is fascinating.

He tried to leave hell, but it was too late.

The music of Herbert Grönemeyer was captivating and really made the film.

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6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Excellent Movie

Author: mikeylvsmvies from United States
11 September 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I saw this movie with my fiancé the night before last. I thought it was a superb movie. In it George Clooney gives an award worthy performance as an assassin in Italy for one last job before he retires. His character in this is similar to the character he portrayed in Syriana. Violante Placido was effective as his love interest. The actor portraying the priest whom the protagonist befriends was also effective. All were helped by a superbly written screenplay adapted from a novel by Martin Booth. Also helpful was the superb direction by Anton Corbjin. Martin Rhue's cinematography was some of the best cinematography I have ever seen. I must warn you however not to expect a happy ending as George Clooney's character does not survive. I expect that this film will be remembered at Oscar time. If you are seeking a typical action movie where stuff blows up every ten minutes then this film is not for you. If however you are seeking a well made grown up movie then you have to see this movie.

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6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

"A Very Private Gentelman"

Author: loco_73 from Canada
9 September 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In the interest of full disclosure this review also appears as a comment on a general posting thread.

This was a wonderful movie, beautiful to look at, well-paced, good acting (with Clooney once again impressing me and proving once more how good of an actor he is), with understated action. This movie reminds me in some ways of "The Samurai" with Alain Delon and even Luc Besson's "The Professional" with Jean Reno.

"The American" seems to me like the quintessential European thriller, which happened to cast a North American actor as its lead. It is more of a character study, as many other have pointed out, about a lonely man, who late in life realizes that he does not have much to show for, and how that dawning understanding affects him, who is used to be alone, private, living with his secrets and the memories of his past. the beginning of the movie is a pivotal moment, because I think that he becomes unhinged after the opening scene. Hell, the film it is based on a book called "A Very Private Gentelman".

I have read some of the derisive and negative comments, that the movie is too slow, that there is not enough action. To that I say, that if you expect a movie were stuff blows up with no context, cheesy dialogue, constant running, massive CGI/special FX then this movie is NOT for you as you will be sorely disappointed.

Anton Corbijn cut his teeth back in the '80's and '90's as a music video director and photographer, most notably with his work for and connection to U2. Those influences can be clearly seen in this movie, just like David Fincher in a way. This is only his second movie, his debut was "Control" a biopic chronicling the life of Ian Curtis, lead singer of the extraordinarily talented and influential, but criminally ignored and underrated, group Joy Division. That movie was an even more deep and detailed character study of a man living on the edge of sanity and insanity, light and dark, joy and depression, a precarious and exhausting balance which concluded tragically.

In "The American" a far more conventional effort, he continues that character study but now in direct connection with the themes of violence and love. Clooney is a man that lives with one, violence, and seeks the other whenever he can. I think that in the end he found it.

This is definitely not a movie for all, but if you are patient, do not suffer from ADD and can afford some two hours to see a solid piece of cinema, you will not be disappointed. Otherwise go and rent "Tranformers" or better yet go see "Takers", I guess that will be more up your alley...

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7 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Signor Farfalla

Author: Bruce Jones ( from Southern California
7 September 2010

Sig. Farfalla should be the name of the film, not The American. OH, well ... another missed opportunity for creativity.

I hesitated making a trip to see this. I'm usually disappointed by films with this subject matter due to their being co contrived and unrealistic. But the early reviews said it was out of the ordinary which was a plus in my view, so I went to see it. I have to say it met the promises for the most part. There were a couple of things that hit a raw nerve with me but more on that later.

I have been watching the talented Mr. George Clooney since his first appearance on TV when I remarked to my wife, "If he gets good management that boy could go places." I liked him in this, a convincing job of portraying this type of personality. Generally people who live to get close to being old in that kind of work become a bit paranoid. He made that look right.

What really stood out was the stellar job the rest of the production was. First, casting was marvelous. I'm so glad this fine movie wasn't peopled with the usual mundane supporters from Hollywood. I liked them all so much it's hard to think where to start to praise them. The film opens with Mr. Clooney (in the part of Jack / Edward) in the company of Irina Björklund as Ingrid. She exits the film early but it was nice to see a woman in the company of the leading man who looked like she should be.

George's female company got better from there. First, we have Thekla Reuten as Mathilde, a pretty face with an evil interior. I liked her in that spot. She gave it more than I'd usually expect from a female cast in that kind of a part. The only off notes were the technicalities of her dialog with Clooney, which were not good, but in all probability, not her fault. Again, more on that later.

Next, we are treated to the stunning Violante Placido as Clara, George's romantic interest. This incredible looking, traditional sensual female was far better than I could have hoped for; Una bella, donna stupefacente e sensuale ... A beautiful, amazing and sensual woman! No, seriously, I was quite taken with her, not only her acting, which was superior, but her appearance, which was closer to being an actual, living, breathing sexy woman than an entire parade of the bland, emaciated looking girls that populate most movies today. I was also surprised to see, in one scene, that she did not adopt the oh-so-phony looking zig-zag after coupling sheet arrangement so common in American film and TV. Even if it wasn't her idea to present herself like that, it was so much more realistic. She made the film as much as Clooney did, in my book. She made her character feel real, thoughtful and intelligent; no small undertaking.

Another delight to watch on screen was Paolo Bonacelli as Father Benedetto, the priest who tries to befriend Clooney. I really enjoyed his performance as it reminded me of a couple of priests I knew in my younger days. His presence definitely added to the story.

Which brings me to: The Story. Now, supposedly, the film is adapted from a novel, "A Very Private Gentleman", by Martin Booth. I'll have to honestly admit that I've not read that book - which in itself is odd when one considers the thousands of books I have read - but I usually don't care for books of that nature for the same reasons I'm not crazy about films like this - accuracy and honesty.

Now, in the book - at least some of the published info on it, states that the main character is " ... a technical weapons expert who creates and supplies the tools for high-level assassins." In the film, that is not so clear as it seems to indicate that he is the assassin and weapons are just a side-line. This is where my irritation comes in.

It seems to me that novelists, and therefore film makers that follow them, don't do a very credible job concerning the technical aspects of the weapons. Sometimes I think it must be because they are afraid of them. In this film - perhaps not in the book - the technical talk is so wrong it's sour.

It would take too much to go into in detail - which I easily could - but an example is this: In discussions one character - Thekla - specifies that she needs an excellent sniper weapon and what is produced as the platform to build her "dream weapon" is a rifle that is notorious for being less than accurate and it deteriorates from there. In fact, all of the technical scenes are seriously wanting, just plain not believable.

The film also suffers from things it just does not adequately clear up, it left people wondering aloud at what actually went on in a few places.

Overall, the film gets top marks in areas other than just the acting. The director did a superlative job. I like his style very much, not overbearing like a few directors I could name. The other aspects, sets, costumes and especially the locations, are all excellent. Especially the locations. What a wonderful choice for the film!

In spite of the errors - which I'm sure very few people would realize - the film is a great treat to watch. Just sit back and let thee fine actors and actresses take you on a nice vacation in the Italian countryside.

Bruce L. Jones

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7 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

On Butterfly Wings

Author: David Ferguson ( from Dallas, Texas
5 September 2010

Greetings again from the darkness. George Clooney takes another step towards his dark side ... way past his role in the superb "Up in the Air". Here he plays a man of singular focus. No, that's not quite right. He is not so much a man as a tool or vehicle. He is an assassin who is also an expert assembler of specialized weapons for contract killings.

Clooney follows the commands of his master or leader or employer without much discussion, and certainly no debate. The two communicate via phone in short, terse bursts ... just like a kill. The leader is played by Johan Leyson. He has a face designed purely to play evil. From the opening scene, we know people are trying to kill Clooney. He knows this too. So he heads to a quiet, picturesque Italian countryside town to "work" on his next assignment.

His meet is with Thekla Reuten, fellow assassin. Their conversation is not riddled with fluff, only the requirements for the job. You might remember Ms. Reuten as the innkeeper from "In Bruges". She manages to pull off the assassin role despite ... or is it because of ... her beauty.

As with every singular focused assassin I have ever met, the weakness comes in the form of love. He wants to feel normal and complete. Here his hope for normal comes in the form of Clara, a local prostitute. Of course, only assassins and Richard Gere characters look for normal at a bordello. Clara is played well by Violante Placido and the two form an awkward bond. Or do they? That's really the gut of the film and the only real clue is Clooney's nickname, Mr. Butterfly.

This can be viewed as yet another "last job, then I'm out" film, a coming-of-middleage quest, or a character study of a guy who just wants normalcy. What it's not is an action film or "Bourne" type film that the trailer suggests. Most of the action in this film is related to sunglass changes and slow gum chewing. Director Anton Corbjin is known mostly for his music videos and here he delivers tremendous camera work to go along with minimal dialogue ... most of which occurs when the great Paolo Bonacelli is on screen as Father Benedetto.

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8 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

The Ordinary

Author: rooee from United Kingdom
1 December 2010

Dutch director Anton Corbijn's debut, Control, felt like a fresh take on the rock biopic. Ironically, his feature follow-up, The American, often comes across as a shallow rock video, with glum gun-maker and possible-hit-man Jack (George Clooney) doing his best to steal our eyes from a series of glorious rural Italian vistas.

After a jolting opening scene, which starts like Roger Moore's Bond and finishes like Daniel Craig's, we're treated to a cavalcade of clichés, as Jack escapes to a remote, yet strangely well-served, Abruzzian village, where he meets a priest (The Soul) and a prostitute (The Body) – and of course his destiny, in the form of One Last Job. It's like Michelangelo Antonioni picked up the script for Carlito's Way, stripped out the backstory, and relocated to the hills of his homeland.

Clooney is becoming the cinematic totem for the burning male soul – and yet his body has inhabited far more interesting (if less picturesque) worlds in Solaris and Michael Clayton. Recently, his performance in Up in the Air was more complex, and his character somehow sadder, than his Jack; more broken.

Given his background, Corbijn has a faultless photographic eye – his still images are pretty as paintings. But it's not a kinetic eye, so when things start to shift during the film's few action sequences (never trust a trailer) the results are stilted.

One can't deny that Corbijn's second feature (of just three, he claims) is aesthetically pristine and refreshingly slow-paced. But its sombre beauty is only a mask for a decidedly ordinary beast.

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8 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

A Minimalist James Bond

Author: Colin George from United States
12 September 2010

"The American" is defiantly quiet. When it began, the hum of the theater fan was louder than its ambiance track. The audience shifted in their creaky chairs as the camera crawled toward a snow-covered cabin. The silence permitted me a unique opportunity to reflect on how loud movies have become.

The comparative whisper of Anton Corbijn's "The American" heralds a spy-thriller set so far apart from its "Bourne" brethren that it barely qualifies as a thriller at all. Certainly not the kind that a mainstream audience, baited with an intentionally misleading trailer, had come to see. That it stars George Clooney, one of the most trusted faces in Hollywood, only rubs salt in the wound. But if you don't have the patience for it, it's your loss; "The American" is exactly the breed of careful, confident filmmaking that has become an endangered species in Hollywood.

Corbijn makes a bold commitment to his images in an age where the exploits of Jason Bourne and James Bond are obscured by a quivering camera and half-second cuts. Atmosphere is everything in this contemplative, introverted espionage film, and he lets each frame hang like a painting. In all, there is probably less than a combined ten minutes of hard action in "The American," but the patient will be far from bored.

Based on the novel "A Very Private Gentleman" by Martin Booth, the plot ostensibly revolves around the construction of a custom rifle, which admittedly, is not the most exciting synopsis ever committed to paper. However, due in large part to Clooney's subtle presence, and seen through Corbijn's keen eye, even the methodic weapon-construction is riveting to watch. His character is further revealed through his relationship with two decidedly asimilar characters, a priest (Paolo Bonacelli) and a prostitute (Violante Placido).

The performance isn't especially nuanced or layered, but Clooney brings an effective solemnity to the title role. Besides his natural magnetism, he plays the character like Bond's very antithesis: quiet, lonely, meticulous, paranoid, old. Clooney is refreshing in his absolute uncoolness. When his character is forced into action, we aren't given the impression that he derives any enjoyment from what he does. He's good at it, but his fear is evident when he's pressed into a compromising situation. Self-preservation is constantly his top priority, and the exploration of his capacity for trust begets "The American's" most suspenseful moments.

If there is a problem with the film, it's that its propensity for understatement is played almost to a fault. It is, after all, ostensibly about the construction of a rifle. The plot is exceedingly simple, but somehow it feels all the smarter for its bare bones approach to the genre. By stripping away the layers of predictable and convoluted intrigue that pockmark most marginal capers, "The American" presents itself as something far closer to a character study, profiling a particularly solitary assassin.

The result is a compelling portrait of isolation, a theme that the title indirectly supports. The film takes place almost entirely in Abruzzo, where the nationality of Clooney's character is his sole distinguishing feature. It is only through his bourgeoning relationships with two unlikely Italians that we come to better understand him. He is repeatedly subjected to the consequences of his past mistakes, and though he is far from the world's most exciting action hero, Corbijn is clearly more concerned with empathy than entertainment.

And frankly, we don't get enough of that. "The American" is a film appreciable probably only to a minority of filmgoers, and unless you're deliberately in the market for a more downbeat "Bond," my recommendation comes with an asterisk.

But those it ensnares will be quietly appreciative, and when the lights go up, the hum of the theater fan will sound deafening.

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8 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

The way of the gun

Author: moviemanMA from Massachusetts
4 September 2010

Anton Corbijn's The American is a slight departure for the George who seems to find himself surrounded by big names more often than not. Here he is alone, and that works just fine. He plays Jack, a gun for hire with a knack for making specialized weapons. When Jack's life becomes threatened by some Swedish hit men, Jack seeks sanctuary in the small Italian town of Castel del Monte. There he must lay low while working on his next assignment, to create a rifle for a fellow assassin.

In Castel del Monte, Jack tries to keep a low profile, as were the instruction given by his boss. Somehow the local padre finds him and strikes a friendship, one that leads to Jack's acquisition of machine parts from a local mechanic. He works tirelessly on preparing the weapon, even making his own bullets. His only form of recreation is at a brothel, where he meets Clara, a voluptuous woman Jack becomes fond of.

This film works like a foreign spy/thriller. There isn't an exorbitant amount of action, and what action that exists serves a purpose of moving the plot along. No high tech explosives, unnecessary gun fights, and there isn't an endless supply of henchmen for Jack to annihilate. Those seeking to get their manly fix of combat should not look herein. There is enough action to satisfy the confines of the story and it's characters.

What little dialogue there is serves it's purpose. Each line is well thought out and nothing is wasted. We can read Jack's face to know exactly what he is thinking and where he will take us next. His phone calls are brief and he doesn't like to give explanations or dish out information. His conversations with the priest are comical. A fantastic performance by Paolo Bonacelli (who also played a man of the cloth in Mission Impossible: III) compliments George's character so well.

The priest wants so desperately to find a friend in Jack and learn all about him, but Jack isn't very keen on this. There is a moment where the two are sitting down for dinner. Jack picks up his fork to take a bite of food, only to be interrupted by the priest who says a blessing, causing Jack to pause. The two look each other in the eye, waiting for the other to make a move. Jack isn't rude, but he refuses to join in the blessing, and the priest is fine with that, not bringing up questions of faith and God. He let's Jack eat. It's a brilliant scene.

The relationship between Jack and Clara is another interesting one. Jack is a man with a lot of baggage, as in Clara, only of a different kind. Her line of work causes her to carry a somewhat fake persona, something Jack isn't a fan of. He wants her to be herself. Clearly Jack is her first client of this variety, she immediately becomes affectionate towards him. There is a moment when they are in the middle of a payed "session" and Jack tries to kiss her, but she says no, a sort of unwritten rule in the world of prostitution. After a lengthy shot of the two indulging in intercourse, she breaks her rule and allows a kiss. Right away we know that they're feelings for each other are special.

I've said much about the character of Jack, but much can be said of the town he stays in. It's a small town nestled in the hills of Italy's countryside. There are some truly breathtaking shots showing the town's remoteness, making it appear rustic, pure, vulnerable. There are some incredible aerial shots of the winding roadways and labyrinthian streets, coupled with some spectacular shots at night where Jack evades a hit-man. The lighting is especially impressive. There are yellows, oranges, and purples omitting from unseen sources, creating the perfect mood for a chase.

This is a perfect example where less is more. Where the story drives the action and not the other way around. We are given the correct amount of information and mystery where we can use our own imaginations to fill in the back-story of such an interesting man. We are shown glimpses of what Jack is like. His need for love, his ability to create and modify weapons, his interest in butterflies, his exceptional sense for his surroundings. All pieces to the puzzle of a man who constantly searches for some normalcy in an extraordinary life.

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