The American Review
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No award season is complete without Clooney. Every fall, George Clooney releases another movie (or maybe two), sparking the inevitable debates over his chances of earning yet another Oscar nod. Lately, he’s done comedy, political drama, and even animated films. But, this year, Clooney kicks off the fall film season by playing an assassin in hiding in the simple but stylish thriller, The American.

The life of an assassin is a solitary one—quietly traveling from one country to another, making no impression, leaving no trace behind. So when Jack (Clooney) is tracked by two men in Sweden, he knows that something has gone horribly wrong. His cover blown, he flees to Italy.

While hiding out in the small village of Castel del Monte, posing as a photographer, Jack agrees to do one more job: assembling a rifle for a fellow assassin who calls herself Mathilde (Thelka Reuten). Meanwhile, despite his contact’s warnings, he begins to venture out, befriending both a priest and a prostitute. But as he finishes his job, he remains vigilant, knowing that the Swedes—or anyone else, for that matter—could track him down again.

The American isn’t the typical Hollywood thriller—or at least (as its classically styled movie poster suggests) not the typical 21st century Hollywood thriller. Dutch director Anton Corbijn gives the film a decisively European feel: simple, quiet, deliberately paced. And he seasons it with classic Hitchcockian suspense.

The story is uncomplicated—so it’s not all that difficult to see where it’s going. Some of Jack’s suspicions are reasonable, while some are just caused by his growing paranoia—and you’ll rarely have trouble telling the difference. There aren’t a whole lot of surprises—and, aside from a few bursts of violence, there’s nothing particularly dynamic about it.

Instead of high-speed chases and noisy shoot-outs, The American’s thrills come from that claustrophobic feeling you’ll get as Jack walks alone through the village’s narrow cobbled streets—where another assassin could be hiding in shadowed alleys and doorways. Or from the suspense the builds when Jack allows himself to be vulnerable. Or from Jack’s ever-increasing paranoia. He’s constantly on-edge—and his suspicions are contagious. Though you may think you’ve got it all figured out, you’ll keep second-guessing yourself, always expecting the unexpected. You’ll hold your breath through the agonizing silence, anxious to see what’s around the next corner.

The American isn’t an action-packed thriller, so if you’re expecting some kind of Michael Bay action and effects, you’ll be disappointed (and bored). It isn’t the smartest of thrillers, either. The storytelling is choppy, and the story is a bit too simple. But it’s stylish and suspenseful—a beautiful and quietly absorbing thriller to help make the transition from summer action to fall drama.

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