The American (2010)

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George Clooney is The American

Sep 9, 2010 (Updated Jun 1, 2011)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Clooney.  Well done, interesting movie.

Cons:None for me.  Some won't like the lack of action.

The Bottom Line: The American is a bit different than I expected, but the movie is very well done and deserves to be seen.


I have liked George Clooney for several years and I've seen many of his movies.  I've been interested in The American since I first saw the trailers.  While the movie is different from how it is depicted in the trailers, it is still good and worth seeing.

A man and woman are staying at a remote cabin in Sweden.  When they notice tracks in the snow, the man jumps into action, leaving behind three dead bodies.  Jack travels to Italy and contacts Pavel, a man he does jobs for.  Pavel tells Jack to hide out in a small town for a while and avoid making friends.  Jack sort of follows the directions, but he does a few things to indicate that he may not fully trust Pavel.  Jack, using the name Edward, ends up starting a friendship with Father Benedetto.  Jack does agree to take a job that involves him making a weapon for Mathilde.  While doing that, Jack/Edward begins seeing prostitute Clara, first professionally and then socially.

The American is based on the novel A Very Private Gentleman by Martin Booth.  I've never read the book and haven't even heard of it before seeing it listed in the titles.  I have no idea how close to the book the movie stays.

The trailers that I saw for The American make it seem like it is an action thriller type of movie.  I do think it is a thriller, but there is very little action.  That didn't bother me, but some viewers may be disappointed by that, especially with how the trailer depicts the movie.  Things progress at a slower pace, but I was never bored by what was going on.  I think the plot is interesting and while a few things are predictable, some things happened that I didn't expect.  The movie really is very well done and is worth watching.  It isn't one that will appeal to everyone though.  Even fans of George Clooney may be disappointed.

Everything that happens in The American is tied to Jack/Edward in some way.  He is an assassin who seems to be losing his edge at times.  Other times, he still seems to have that edge.  A lot of what he does is normal, somewhat boring stuff.  He is paranoid about someone coming after him and he takes various precautions.  He is suspicious of just about everyone, which makes sense considering his work.   His suspicions help to raise the tension in certain scenes.  While not a lot actually happens, the plot is still interesting.  Since things do move at a slower pace and not much happens for long stretches, some viewers might be bored.  The slower pace does provide time to show the beautiful scenery.  

The American is a more subdued thriller instead of one that tries to cram as much action as possible into what is going on.  I do think there is a bit of mystery tied to what is going on and there is some suspense in a few scenes.  There is shooting in a few different scenes and even a chase, but this isn't an action packed movie.  Some violence turns up every so often as well.  The violence happens in smaller bursts and isn't really graphic, though blood is shown.  I like the more restrained approach taken by the movie.  

Jack is shown briefly with Ingrid in Sweden at the beginning of the movie.  It is clear that they have a sexual relationship and that is really all that is known about the relationship.  After he has been in Italy for a while, he starts visiting prostitute Clara.  If she isn't working, he leaves without seeing one of the other women.  He does seem to be developing an attachment to her, especially once they start seeing other socially.  Not a lot of their relationship is shared, though it seems like there are growing feelings.  Clara is shown naked a few times and there is one sex scene.  It isn't that explicit, but it is clear what is going on.  Jack's bare behind is briefly seen after the sex scene.  The R rating probably has more to do with the nudity and sexual content than the violence.  

Jack/Edward is a mysterious man who mostly keeps to himself.  He knows he needs to lay low, but he starts a friendship with a priest and then becomes attached to Clara.  Jack/Edward is careful in what he is doing, but other things seem to indicate that he is slipping and tired of his line of work.  He tells most people that his name is Edward, but Pavel calls him Jack.  I'm still not sure which, if either, is his real name.  Even as more happens and a bit more is shared about him, much about Jack remains a mystery by the end of the movie.  He isn't really a good guy, though he manages to be somewhat likable and he's definitely interesting.  I really like George Clooney in the role.  Jack is not like any other character I've seen him play and I think he does a wonderful job.  He doesn't say a lot, which fits for the character, but he conveys a lot with his expressions.  Clooney gives the character an intensity that I think works very well for him.

None of the other characters are around as much as Jack/Edward, so they don't receive as much attention.  Ingrid is only in two very short scenes at the beginning, and she doesn't have the chance to do anything beyond say a few lines.  Pavel is the man that Jack contacts once he is in Italy.  Pavel is the man who has sent Jack on jobs.  He is only in a few short scenes, usually just heard when Jack talks to him on the phone.  Johan Leysen does fine with the part.  Mathilde is the woman that Jack is hired to design a special gun for.  She is seen three times in the movie, and she looks slightly different each time, usually with a different hair color.  Thekla Reuten is fine in the part.    

Father Benedetto is the kind older priest who Jack starts spending some time with.  Father Benedetto does seem to pick up that something is off with Jack.  Paolo Bonacelli handles the part well.  Various other people are briefly seen without them really doing much or standing out.  Clara is the only other character who receives much attention, though she is still not developed much.  She seems nice enough, though she may have a secret or two of her own.  Violante Placido does well with the part.

Main Cast

Paolo Bonacelli - Father Benedetto
George Clooney
Johan Leysen - Pavel
Violante Placido - Clara
Thekla Reuten - Mathilde

Anton Corbijn - Director

The American is a very well done movie that definitely deserves to be seen.  George Clooney fans should give it a chance.  If people go into seeing the movie thinking it is going to have more action, they may end up disappointed.

* This review was originally posted after I saw the movie in the theater.  It is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

George Clooney Movie Reviews
Batman & Robin ~ Burn After Reading ~ Intolerable Cruelty ~ Leatherheads ~ The Men Who Stare at Goats ~ Michael Clayton ~ Ocean's Eleven ~ Ocean's Twelve ~ Ocean's Thirteen ~


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