George Clooney. Focus Features. Written by Rowan Joffe (28 Weeks Later). Directed by Anton Corbijn.
FILM SYNOPSIS: As an assassin, Jack (George Clooney) is constantly on the move and always alone. After a job in Sweden ends more harshly than expected for this American abroad, Jack retreats to the Italian countryside. He relishes being away from death for a spell as he holes up in a small medieval town. While there, Jack takes an assignment to construct a weapon for a mysterious contact, Mathilde (Thekla Reuten).
Savoring the peaceful quietude he finds in the mountains of Abruzzo, Jack accepts the friendship of local priest Father Benedetto (Paolo Bonacelli) and pursues a liaison with a beautiful prostitute, Clara (Violante Placid). Jack and Clara's time together evolves into a romance, one seemingly free of danger. But by stepping out of the shadows, Jack may be tempting fate.
PREVIEW REVIEW: I’d like to gush over this film for a bit before we get to the R-rated stuff. First, as I left the theater, I said to a colleague, “Finally, a movie. A real movie.” Despite its share of intense action, the makers take the time (deliberately paced) to tell their story and develop the characters. It’s a parable. Though it is an extreme example (the guy is, after all, a hit man), we see that love is this amazing element to life. Without it we become dead inside. And the magic of love is that it comes when least expected.
Director Anton Corbijn (Control) manages to salute the masters of his profession, paying tribute to Hitchcock and several European auteurs – conjuring up suspense, which adds to the film’s adventure. Despite its slow pace in the beginning, Mr. Corbijn has the skill to engage us, holding us captive to his cinematic style and substance. And again, George Clooney proves he’s so much more than a matinee idol. He has that old-Hollywood movie star persona and look, but he’s also a gifted thespian. And what a pleasure to see a film where he doesn’t profane God’s name (rare).
Alas, for those of us still shocked by the graphic and casual use of violence and sexuality in films, The American’s content is excessive. Please read the content before deciding to attend.
I suppose I’m a bit jaded when it comes to violence in films, seeing nearly two hundred a year. That said, the sudden casualness of several point blank shootings is still jolting, even to me. As for the sexual situations, one scene becomes rather graphic in depiction and the lady is seen nude or topless frequently. Can’t say I didn’t appreciate her God-created form, but could the film have made its point without the nudity? Yes, which might have made the relationship more poignant.
Artistically, this is one of the most riveting films of the year. Content-wise, well, for those who have taken a stand against R-rated films, dissatisfied with Hollywood’s necessity at telling a good story with the inclusion of the excessiveness of the R category, good for you. Any time you take a stand for your beliefs, you send a potent message to your family and friends.
DVD Alternatives: Angel and the Badman. John Wayne portrays a wounded gunfighter nursed back to health by a Quaker family. The family (especially the beautiful daughter, Gail Russell) affects his view of life. Sometimes corny, but it has some tender moments and several good action sequences.
The Apostle (1997). This perceptive drama, written, directed and starring Robert Duvall, never condescends, nor is it antagonistic toward people of faith while telling its story of a good but imperfect man’s redemption. PG-13. I found nothing offensive for exploitive purposes. The implied adultery, its one violent scene, the reverend's faulty nature, and a couple of mild expletives serve to further the story rather than shock us or malign the ministry.