The American (2010)


release date: 1 September 2010 (Canada)
run time: 105 mins
rated: 14A
considered: Crime, Drama, Thriller
director: Anton Corbijn
starring: George Clooney, Irina Bjorklund, Lars Hjelm, Bjorn Granath, Johan Leysen, Paolo Bonacelli, Giorgio Gobbi, Silvana Bosi, Thekla Reuten, Guido Palliggiano, Samuel Vauramo, Antonio Rampino, Violante Placid, Filippo Timi, Ilaria Cramerotti

movie summary: The American starts out in the winter landscapes of Sweden where we meet Jack (George Clooney) and his girlfriend Ingrid (Irina Bjorklund). While the couple are walking in the woods they come across some footprints in the snow which causes Jack to jump behind the cover of some rocks as bullets begin to whiz by. He realizes that he is the target for an assassination and pulls out his gun to shoot down the sniper and his partner before turning the gun on Ingrid. Frustrated that his career has led him down this road and that he can’t get close to anyone because of trust issues, Jack decides it’s time to retire.

When he shows up unexpected in Rome, he contacts his employer Pavel (Johan Leysen) who agrees to meet and create a new “out” for him. Jack settles into the small town of Castel del Monte, Abruzzo, which has a population of about 120 people. He befriends a local priest named Father Benedetto (Paolo Bonacelli) while telling everyone that he is an American photographer who is in town to take pictures of the mountains. Pavel reaches Jack and asks him if he’d be interested in one final job before disappearing off the map. Jack reluctantly agrees and meets with a lady named Mathilde (Thekla Reuten), who wants him to create a super power rifle to perform an assassination from a far distance with little to no sound. Jack has no problem with creating such a rifle using whatever tools he can find in the local car repair garage.

In his free time Jack begins to meet with a prostitute named Clara (Violante Placido). He walks and drives around the town but is always looking over his shoulder since his work has made him a target for everything he knows and jobs he’d been a part of. At night he lays awake dreaming of Ingrid and how betrayed he felt. When he puts the finishing touches on the rifle, he meets with Mathilde again and the two head down by the river to do some target practice. The two exchange turns firing the gun at various lengths, while Mathilde tests his marksmanship by standing by a target and tells him to pull the trigger. His job appears to be done at this point since he has made a reliable silent sniper rifle and meets with Clara again to go on a picnic. He has begun to develop romantic feelings for her and hopes when he gets payment for this last job he can disappear with her into the shadows.

Back in the town Jack senses he’s being followed and ends up killing another hitmen from Sweden. Pissed off that his cover is blown once again, he contacts Pavel to request that he be paid for his services so he can disappear. He meets with Clara one more time to explain that he would love to run away with her and that she needs to meet him where they had their picnic so she can wait for him. He meets with Mathilde to exchange the weapon for the cash, only to realize the cafe is empty and that he’s been the target the whole time.


my thoughts: I remember watching this movie a few years back (when it first came out) and don’t recall if I turned it off or even finished it. It was really slow and extremely boring and never thought I’d watch it again. Fast forward to last week when it was playing on TV. I caught the final 30 minutes and didn’t remember any of the story and watched the ending only to be left wondering how did we get to that point. After some browsing on Netflix last night I came across The American so watched it again from start to finish. At the end of the movie I felt that my initial assessment was a little bit harsh and wanted to write this review to express my change in opinion.

The American was an interesting and intriguing movie. George Clooney is a great actor who is able to pull of this Jack character flawlessly and with little to no effort. This movie may be a little under two hours in length, but all that time allows Clooney to show us how tough life can be for a secret assassin that is in hiding. He escapes the woods in Sweden only to find shelter in a small town in Italy where he thinks he will be safe only to find out he is not. Every second of every day he walks around always glancing over his shoulder and wishing he had a gun whenever someone puts their hands in their pockets or purse. When he sits at home, he has no fancy things in the house and uses a pay phone to make all his calls. His career has brought him to every corner of the earth and his escape route is always just the clothes on his back and the cash in his pocket. That may never change for him whether he stays in the game or walks away, but as a human he craves physical contact and meets a lovely girl that he’s willing to leave everything for. Like most of these stories, action or romance, when someone is willing to change everything they are to pursue love, it doesn’t usually end well for both parties.

Jack is always going to be on pins and needles. His training and whole adult life has been evaluating situations and making split second decisions that are either life or death. In terms of his job or hobby, Jack has a unique skill set that always him to make almost anything out of nothing. It would be really hard to explain this to any long-term romantic partner or friends who comes to realize he really isn’t a photographer. When he meets Violante Placido’s Clara character he begins to see there are other beautiful things in life besides killing. She comes into his life which makes him take down his guard and relax a little bit. Their relationship is strictly business at first but something clicks between the two which kind of throws a wrench into his retirement plans. Jack wanted to leave the game for a little while now, but needed a real reason to walk away from the lifestyle and when he meets the lovely Clara, she becomes his future.

I have no clue why this movie is called The American, except the fact that Jack is an American character that is like a fish out of water in a small Italian town. He speaks fluent Italian which allows him to blend in perfectly, even though he really doesn’t like a photographer. When he realizes he’s been sent to that town to become a target, it seems like he was really thrown into a giant fishbowl where his boss and his hitmen can watch his every move. The best thing about the story and it’s characters is that Clooney is able to carry this movie on his back because there isn’t a whole lot of dialogue to fill in the beautiful landscapes, architecture, and few bullets. Not everyone is capable of telling such a deep meaningful story with little to nothing with work, like much like Tom Hanks did in Cast Away.

my final thoughts: I was wrong with my first impressions of The American. I went into this secret assassin movie expecting something along the lines of Jason Bourne and James Bond. Only after watching it for a second time did I come to realize this wasn’t that kind of movie, and that it is more about psychological toll of that lifestyle and the consequences one would face when it’s time to get out. Fans of George Clooney will be pleased with his abilities to carry this movie from start to finish all the while staying classy and charming.

my star rating: 8 out 10

imdb: 6.3 out 10 
metascore: 61/100
rottentomatoes: 66% out 100%
roger ebert: 4 out 4
richard crouse: 2 out 5

2 thoughts on “The American (2010)

  1. The style of this movie is quite interesting. Not because it doesn’t tell you much about the lead character, except that he’s a killer with some sympathetic qualities, but that the movie itself is very quiet. Without hardly any score to be heard in the background at all. Good review Ryan.

    1. I didn’t even realize there is not much of a musical score to this movie until you pointed out. Great eye for detail on that one. I’m glad I gave it a second chance considering how much I disliked it the first time around. Something struck me about it last week and I felt it was a movie I should have enjoyed for it’s simplicity but just expected way too much from it. Thanks for always leaving a comment Dan!

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