Friday, November 22, 2013

Movie Review - The American (2010)

A veteran assassin retreats to a small town in Italy after being hunted in Sweden on his last assignment.  An expert at machinery and modifying firearms, Jack (George Clooney) is hired to build a weapon for another client.  Paranoid and only confiding in himself, Jack approaches a crossroads.  He must decide between his skills in trade or his heart.

The American is a taut, minimalist thriller reminiscent of Le Samourai (1967).  The life of an assassin is a lonely one, filled with personal rules to survive through the line of work.  Much like the technical thought in building his customized weapon, the film itself is stripped down to a stark realism, and the soundtrack is mostly filled with a large void of ambient noise and silence.

This might be surprising to some, but The American's plot structure and themes are extremely similar to the much more popular Drive.  Released almost exactly a year before Drive (both had a September opening), The American follows a similar lonesome working professional who finds love.  Observe the pictures below for one example.  Note how both Clooney's "Jack" and Gosling's "Driver" rely on the bare minimum to live.  A table, his tools and craft are all he needs to get him through the day.  Both movies contain minimal dialogue, and what is spoken is pretty much straight to the point.

Jack working on his craft in The American

The Driver working on his craft in Drive

There are some differences in the main characters.  Jack is more about constant suspicion to survive the risks in his profession, whereas the Driver has more loyalty to those around him despite their untrustworthy character.  Both main characters commit acts of violence, but the Driver's are more grisly and one of Jack's isn't justifiable.  Drive is treated with a romantic glossiness, blaring catchy 80s inspired music and staging beautiful dramatic slow motion set pieces.  The American has a colder approach, with realistic short action sequences, more brooding and visualized nuance.  Most would prefer Drive, which in its own respect is a solid film, but watching The American is at the very least a comparable piece that differs in presentation and approach.

The American is available for stream on Netflix

Rated R for violence, sexual content and nudity


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