'American' shows its shooting star


Star power does powerful things.
For instance, “The American” is not the type of movie that usually comes to Meadville.
The fact that this film, directed by Anton Corbijn, opened nationwide is a testament to its star power.
George Clooney plays Jack, an American assassin hiding out from anonymous people all over the world.
Even before the opening credits roll, Jack racks up a three–person body count in Sweden, then flees to a scenic Italian
The opening credits roll as his car speeds through an Italian tunnel, and all of a sudden you’re aware that this American film has a starkly foreign feel.
The simple, beautifully arranged scenes, shot by Martin Ruhe, let you into the secret of Jack’s identity, but give you almost nothing else.
Jack sits in a café at night, his back against a white wall.
He is alone, and his face shows the wear and exhaustion that such an isolated profession brings with it.
Seemingly nothing happens over the next 105 minutes as the tension builds to a boiling point.
Everything in the film, from the sudden loud bangs to the quiet moments in the village streets, is designed to keep you on the edge of your seat. The camera stays close to Clooney, presenting a claustrophobic view not only of the world around, but of Jack’s private life.
While there is no apparent plot, there is not one minute of “The American” that is gratuitous or dull.
There are few words spoken, adding to the lonely, intense feel, and even fewer characters: aside from Jack, we are introduced to a priest, three women — two of whom meet grisly but appropriate ends — and Jack’s foreign contact.
Father Benedetto, played by the Italian actor Paolo Bonacelli, gets the best lines and provides, if not comic relief, at least some release from the often–excruciating tension of the film.
“The American” is another in Clooney’s now long line of small, serious, hardly–publicized films.
In it he proves yet again that he is truly one of his generation’s most talented actors.
His performance is so subtle that what he projects through his facial expressions go unnoticed; as you leave the theater you realize just how much you learned about Jack, with hardly any obvious emoting done on Clooney’s part.
For the first time possibly since “Syriana,” I forgot that I was watching George Clooney play a part. His performance is a quiet tour de force.
If “The American” makes any missteps, I missed them.
From the opening to the nail–biting end, every minute feels like a natural progression in Jack’s story.
Anton Corbijn, most likely unfamiliar to American audiences, has brought to fruition a film that, in my eyes, comes very close to thriller perfection. It is an all–too–overused cliché to invoke the masterpiece films of Alfred Hitchcock, but it seems appropriate in this case.
A movie like “The American” will rarely hit Meadville theatres again.Thank you, George Clooney, for your star performance which brought one of the best movies of 2010 to small towns across America.