Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Movie with Abe: The American

The American
Directed by Anton Corbijn
Released September 1, 2010

In real life, it’s highly unlikely that famed bachelor George Clooney actually has trouble finding a woman to seduce or enjoying a vast array of close friends. Yet Clooney has made it an art of portraying someone who may not be entirely unlikeable but still lives a life of solitude, most notably in his most recent Oscar-nominated turns in “Syriana,” “Michael Clayton,” and “Up in the Air.” Now, he’s playing the same archetype as a loner assassin hiding out in Rome after narrowly escaping a hit in Sweden in this quiet, contemplative, and subtly engaging thriller.

Even if Clooney seems too good-looking and amiable to portray a man with no human connections, he plays the part extremely well. The frequently grinning con man from “Ocean’s Eleven” is nowhere to be found in this paranoid, twitchy spy wary of making friends for fear of being betrayed. The film’s title has little meaning other than as an identifier for others for Clooney’s character, alternately known as Jack and Edward. He speaks decent Italian, especially with street vendors or restaurateurs, and doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb as many American tourists in foreign countries do. Apart from his sensibilities, he could just as well be another other nationality; still a stranger in a foreign land.

Those seeking a fast-paced action movie should look elsewhere. Audience members won’t be sitting on the edge of their seats but rather shifting around nervously throughout the film, aware that at any moment someone could be tailing Clooney’s hero or that a gunshot could come from any vantage point. Amid the ever-present forebodingness, however, there comes an excellent opportunity to get to know the man with two names (a moniker that could effectively serve to differentiate him from Clint Eastwood’s similarly friendless vigilante The Man with No Name). As the film progresses, his motivations become clearer and the inescapability of his lifestyle is cemented.

“The American” has a tight-knit cast of primary players. Paolo Bonacelli is the excitable voice of good and reason as the neighborly Father Benedetto, and provides many of the film’s lighter moments. Thekla Reuten, who stood out in Showtime’s miniseries “Sleeper Cell” and 2008’s sleeper hit “In Bruges,” goes toe to toe with Clooney’s expert as a mysterious contact meeting him for an operation. The most impressive and refreshingly talented find in the cast is the enchanting Roman native Violante Placido, who plays the biggest temptress for the lonely Edward, as prostitute Clara. Her allure threatens to distract him from his life of solitude and safety, and it’s their chemistry that serves as the film’s emotional trigger. “The American” might best be described as part romance, part drama, part thriller, and an all-around solid film.


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