The American is the second feature film from Anton Corbijn, following on from the brilliant Ian Curtis biopic Control, and though this thriller is a different beast, once again the photographer’s eye is up front and centre on the big screen.
The story, about an tired assassin/gun maker to the nefarious who seeks a seachange and lurv after a life of loneliness and violence, isn’t remarkable, and there are occasional, minor bumps in the logic road.
George Clooney, and his co-stars, are superb; Clooney is so understated, as is so much of the film. Funnily enough, if an American studio had made this movie, well, it would most likely have been such a different fish.
But instead of sparking, flipping, roaring car chases and huffing foot chases and cut sequences of martial arts and amazing volleys of inaccurate gunfire all set to a thumping techno beat, we have a far more contemplative movie: it still has car chases, foot chases and exchanges of gunfire, but this is a character piece, and it’s beautifully done. Even the soundtrack is treated with minimalist regard.
Much of the charm is in the direction, with almost still images striking such emotional chords: Clooney framed in a cafe window, looking out, seeming so small and paranoid and very alone, is one that sticks in the mind. But these remarkably evocative images are everywhere, whether in the twisting streets of an Italian village or the panoramic landscape or the framing of the characters, making this a real joy to watch.