Friday, 22 October 2010

A Few Words on The American

There’s a distinct lack of words flowing for this one, I’m officially stumped. Did I like The American? I can’t be certain? Was it well made? Even more dangerous territory. It gets even more difficult to assess when I essentially called the ending halfway through, although that doesn’t particularly take away from its effect (oddly). The American is about a serial killer (Clooney) who arrives in Italy for a job, that is the only essential portion of the plot. I still exist on general antipathy towards Clooney though I like him on occasion (namely here and here). In deciding whether or not I think Clooney does an impressive job here I have to decide if the film is one that manages to put forth a good performance.
The American is a low-key, sometimes maddeningly so. Even Cairo Time, which sort of thrives on being as minimalist as possible doesn’t evoke that stark sense of bareness. In keeping with the mood Clooney seems to be stripped to the bare essentials. Thus, his performance becomes half action performance and half silent. I’m never inclined to believe I’m watching George Clooney. Obviously, I am but Clooney is the sort of actor who seems to deliberately prevent separation between his celebrity and his character. He realises that it doesn’t here and he does a credible job of accomplishing that separation. The thing is, Clooney accomplishes the creation of a character with aplomb but fails to construct a person. It’s a possibility that this is a deliberate move from Corbijn, but that doesn’t make the experience any more fulfilling.
The American leaves a sort of bad taste in your mouth, though I’m still uncertain if it’s the story or the technique that does so. It’s simultaneously tightly constructed – a little over ninety minutes – and yet it seems to go on forever. Anomalous? Yes. Corbijn has an obvious talent for technique and The American is shot beautifully, though not overtly so. It works in its own way, but I’m not sure if it works for me. So I’m left in one of those unfortunate quandaries when it comes to grading and whatnot. That happened to me with Antichrist last year, one movie experience I’m disinclined to revisit. I’m not against seeing The American again; though I don’t think a second viewing would clear up anything. It’s not that I’m confused, per se, I’m just not unconfused. The American is impressive...that much I can say...

Has anyone seen it yet?


Fitz said...

I have the same sentiments regarding The American. Making a pretty picture doesn't make it thought-provoking, but it's art-house which is what Clooney was going for.

rtm said...

I heard my friends gripe about how boring this movie was right after they got out of the theater. It looks gorgeous from the trailer, but me being just meh about Clooney not sure if I even want to see this. Maybe if there's absolutely nothing else to rent.

Anonymous said...

I am a bit disappointed in your tepid review. I have been really looking forward to it.

Red said...

My thoughts were the same. It's a tight picture, and not really "boring" as most people are calling it. It's not something I would go out of my way to re-visit, but I still think it was a good piece of film.

Almost impossible for me to even begin writing a review for it.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

fitz but is it okay to be arthouse with no merit? i'm still slightly undecided about it, though clooney is very good here.

ruth i don't like clooney, but the movie's fine. and as i said above, he's unlike what we usually see him as: and i generally think he has no range.

james i'd be interested in seeing what you think if/when you see it.

red yes, it really is a tough one to review. it's beautiful in its way, but not inviting.