February 8, 2011 (DVD rental)
The American is a subtle film. It is subdued, restrained even, and hearkens back to an era of minimalism and character-driven drama. George Clooney is brilliant as the title character, an assassin attempting to retire from the life and disappear into the Italian countryside. His performance is tightly wound and emotionless, and he captured my attention from the start and made me follow his every move. There is no humor, no laughter, hardly even a smile from Clooney, and it is mesmerizing. The entire film is focused upon him — he is in every scene — and as it progresses the movie is less a narrative and much more a character study of one man. I was engrossed with that one man and with all the possibilities of his life, though not a single fact was given nor a single reason for his actions. We never learn “why” things are happening or whether our suppositions are correct, and yet by the end of the film I was certain of many things about him. And it didn’t matter whether I liked him or not. It only mattered that I was interested enough to follow his story to the end.
I believe the votes have been split on whether people enjoyed this film. I did, very much. Those expecting a typical spy flick, however, will find it slow and boring. The American is not a spy movie. It is a look into a single moment in time, when one man was doing his best to be still and inconspicuous. But it is beautiful and rich and tense, which makes for an incredibly satisfying experience.
image from Rotten Tomatoes, linked to source