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August 31, 2010


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Matthias Galvin

"While audiences expecting a straight-ahead action-packed thriller are going to find this a perhaps bitterly disappointing experience,"

Anybody who knows a movie is directed by somebody named "Anton" should know better.


Can't say I was terribly interested in this until your review, despite liking Clooney. It looks like the studio is kinda dumping it, but as we know, sometimes that just means they don't know how to sell something a little off the beaten path. I'll try to catch it now.

James Keepnews

" It looks like the studio is kinda dumping it, but as we know, sometimes that just means they don't know how to sell something a little off the beaten path."

Sorta like what happened with the Soderbergh/Clooney SOLARIS, a far better film a Tarkovsky freak like myself could have ever expected. That's also where I awoke to the savvy, focused actor behind the smirk and head-bob, one who times his jabs, feints and bellowing-in-doubled-over-revulsions so beautifully. He sure knows how to pick his projects and I'm happy my fears for something Bourne-again here appear unfounded.


I just finished reading your review on MSN.com and I will do what I rarely do and set foot in an actual theater to see this movie.


I’m dying to see this..The lack of early reviews doesn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence...anyways I'm sure I would watch this...

Stephen Whitty

Yes, but Glenn, what about the airconditioning system in the theater?

Thanks for this. The characters and plot, such as it was, felt a little well-worn to me at times, but the chilly look and deliberate mood of the film was wonderful.

Set right in the very opening shot, too, by that silent, inexorable tracking shot up to the cabin. OK, definitely NOT as inexorable as the final shot of "The Passenger," but clearly a directorial announcement of what we could expect from this very Euro-looking thriller.

I also liked, very much, the quiet sequences showing Clooney's character carefully assembling the assassins's custom-made gun. It's so rare that you see a film, particularly an American one, where the character is good with his hands -- the very idea of craftsmanship seems so lost to us these days it's a pleasure to watch an artisan at work.

Even if what he is making is, well, a high-powered rifle for an anonymous murderer.

Chris O.

Ditto Stephen's sentiments. I'd just like to add that I also liked that Corbijn was having fun with color after the b&w CONTROL (though nothing more radical than, say. what Soderbergh has done recently) -- white, red and a lovely shade of green every once in a while (hmmm... the colors of the Italian flag -- wait, there was also gold & blue).

And if anyone else here has seen Corbijn's LINEAR (also shot by Martin Ruhe), which accompanied editions of U2's NO LINE ON THE HORIZON album, you might agree it seems as if he was testing ideas out with that project for later use in THE AMERICAN. Similar landscape & travel shots, cafe interiors, playing a lot with reflections, etc.

I've also been wondering... other than Kubrick & Agnes Varda, what other auteurs began their careers as professional photographers?

Phil Freeman

I saw this yesterday and liked it a lot. The colors were fantastic, though the obviously CGI butterfly bugged me (no pun intended) a little. I flashed back to Jarmusch's THE LIMITS OF CONTROL a lot, but found this to be a much better movie. I would have liked a lot more footage of Clooney building the rifle - that stuff was almost as good as the counterfeiting scenes in TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A.

Chris O.

I'm also now more eager to see AMERICAN screenwriter Rowan Joffe's directorial debut, an adaptation of Graham Greene's BRIGHTON ROCK, which stars Sam Riley, who was in Corbijn's CONTROL. (So incestuous.) Interesting poster: http://www.awardsdaily.com/2010/08/brighton-rock-poster-parallels/

Ed Hulse

Well, if I went to movies for their color schemes, I'd have been thrilled by THE AMERICAN. Unfortunately, I expect a little more, especially from films that are at least nominally thrillers (or marketed as same). Jesus, the TV commercials for Kindle are more lively than this stinker. And I found Clooney's performance enervating, his face frozen in "woe is me" aspect for far too much of the running time.

Glenn Kenny

@ Ed: Dude, I could have told you that this picture would not be up your alley. In fact, the alley it goes up ought to be called "Not Ed Hulse's".

BTW, I just got the Lone Pine book and am flitting around it and enjoying it a lot. Just finished Fingerman's new novel too, which was really disgusting and good. It's been a solid week for enjoying the literary efforts of old colleagues.

Hollis Lime

It's truly bizarre to see a studio movie with a major star be this minimalist. Some will feel the plot is predictable, but I would argue that it's inevitable and that the movie really isn't plot driven so much anyway. I guessed the ending about 5 minutes before it happened, but the final shots, combined with the themes of paradise and redemption, really moved me. Also, the very reason why some think this film is boring is precisely why I found it so nerve-wracking. Movies where seemingly nothing is happening make me the most paranoid (see also: "Cache").

And I agree with you Glenn, I think Clooney is spectacular here. I guess this type of movie is up my alley because a similar film that came out a couple of years ago, Martin McDonagh's "In Bruges" (both films even share an actor), is one of my favorite movies of the past few years. Though the latter is far more expressionistic and tonally is more akin to gallows comedy, something like Polanski's "Cul-de-Sac", while "The American" is, I feel, closer to something like Antonioni's "The Passenger", in addition to the Melville films.

Bruce Bebb

Good review at MSN, Mr. Kenny.
By the way, has anybody noted how much this subgenre of the thriller owes to Henry King's "The Gunfighter" (1950)?

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