Tom Sims, Executive Director of Cape May Film Society, reviews “The American”
Who doesn’t love George Clooney? He’s normally involved in two major projects each year (and each one is usually very good). Last year, he was in three films: Up in the Air (for which he was nominated for an Academy Award) as well as Fantastic Mr Fox and The Men Who Stare at Goats.
In The American, Clooney plays Jack, an assassin who is reaching the end of an illustrious career. After a botched job in Sweden, Jack escapes to Italy and awaits instructions for his next job. He receives his assignment and tells his boss he is making this one his last. During his stay, Jack begins seeing Clara (played by Italian actress Violante Placido), one of the town’s prostitutes, and he is befriended by local priest, Father Benedetto (played by veteran Italian actor Paolo Bonacelli). Dutch actress Thekla Reuten plays Mathilde, the woman responsible for presenting Jack with his new assignment.
The cast in this film is one of the best international ensembles recently assembled in Hollywood. Much credit goes to Dutch director Anton Corbijn for keeping the flavor of this film authentic and Euro-centric. Corbijn’s previous work was in musical documentaries and music videos, and the style of this film no doubt pulls from those projects. The American is beautifully shot and masterfully edited. Clooney is unusually muted in this role, but it fits his character and he plays it well.
Despite this high praise, by the end of the film you’re questioning motivation and wondering who was doing what to whom. Sure, Jack is an assassin, and we don’t expect all of the details surrounding his work to be anything but covert. What should never be covert is a character’s motivation. I’m all in favor of plot twists, but only ones where the audience has an “ah-ha” moment (not a “wha?” moment). This detracts from the film’s good qualities.
Film Fest Preview: One of the short films in the Festival this year is a “mob gem” called Alienated. The comedy stars Vincent Pastore (best known as Big Pussy in the HBO series The Sopranos). Pastore plays a mob guy haunted by the presence of “foreign creatures” he cannot explain. We have invited Mr Pastore to join us for the Festival, and his manager says it is a very good possibility. Stay tuned!