The American

Charming

The American is a curiosity. The Dutch director, Anton Corbijn, used to ply his trade as a photographer – and you can tell. Filmed in an idyllic Italian Alpine village, the audience is treated to a visual feast: gorgeously lit cobbled streets; expertly composed rural tableaus; perfectly framed shots of actors’ perfect frames.

All very lovely, but this ain’t an art exhibition. What else happens? Not much, sadly – and the slim pickings of plot are all fairly preposterous. George Clooney, a lethal assassin, is ‘lying low’ in the most obtrusive way possible – hanging around in trendy suits and sunglasses, befriending the local priest, partaking in midnight gunfights with dangerous Swedes. The local prostitute he’s shagging turns out to have seen Pretty Woman, and with her heart of gold she shows him how to love. But – oh no! – it’s too late, as George is double-crossed by the wrinkly Bond-esque boss to whom he unwisely reveals his retirement plans.

This all happens very slowly and stylishly – and indeed perhaps the clichés and plot holes matter less if the film is all about the ‘milieu’. I think that’s what Corbijn is going for, with his lingering camerawork and drawn-out sequences where Clooney’s hands meticulously construct weaponry or he sits slowly drinking espressos in local cafes.
 
Unfortunately, any film with so little action or dialogue leaves a lot up to its main actor’s face in order to tell the audience a story. Granted Clooney had to play ‘not giving anything away’, but his was genuinely a blank slate. As a screen presence he may be effortlessly cool but doesn’t help me invest in his character. I had no idea, for instance, why he fell in love with the prostitute – or indeed anything about either of their personalities.
 
A beautiful, empty shell of a film.
 

Corbijn loves it

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