It’s been a good, long while since we’ve done a Netflix movie of the week here at Simply Film- and since there’s certainly no time like the present, let’s get back into the swing of things with this week’s selection, The American. Unbeknownst to many, The American is actually an adaptation of a novel entitled A Very Private Gentleman, written in 1990 by Martin Booth. The film comes to us from Dutch director Anton Corbijn, who is also slated to direct the upcoming thriller A Most Wanted Man, which, coincidentally, featured Philip Seymour Hoffman in a lead role- though, in light of recent and extremely regrettable events, the future of that particular production remains uncertain.
Starring George Clooney, Violante Placido, and Thekla Reuten, the film tells the story of a gruff, professional assassin, Jack (Clooney), as he leads an exceedingly dangerous double life while laying low in Italy. The ensuing drama is an consummate example of atmospheric storytelling and a narrative that’s just dripping with tension and innuendo. The beauty of The American really lies in its subtlety and restraint, and you’d be amazing how much Corbijn is able to communicate to the audience through implication alone.
While George Clooney perhaps stoops a little to play the role of the stoic protagonist, he does it so well that I don’t really mind it. Likewise, if you can get past a bit of cliché towards the first half of the film, including the stereotypical, obnoxiously philosophical priest, there’s certainly a lot to love here. Featuring some absolutely jaw-dropping cinematography from Martin Ruhe, The American balances beautiful emotional intensity with austere, almost minimalist dialogue to produce a hugely engaging film that keeps you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.
Rating: 4 out of 5