The American

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    Last movie I saw: The American

    If George Clooney weren't in this movie, it would not have earned such a wide release. Few movies that reach so many theaters bear a pace as slow as The American. The 60s-Italian tone of the poster is no accident: the film is pure Michelangelo Antonioni. Minimalist performances, equal focus on actor and setting, themes of loss and inhumanity; all those Antonioni tidbits you learn in film theory classes come through in The American. Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West makes a cameo at one point; fitting, because it's another clear influence. Long stretches without dialogue. Easily defined but solid characters. Well-composed shots as pretty as a picture. It's the Antonioni western.

    The ads make this out as a Bourne/Taken kind of flick, but it's not an action movie by any stretch of the imagination. The closest comparison: only The Hurt Locker matches The American's mastery of suspense. Never does a scene pass without the fear that something terrible is about to happen, and someone is about to die. We see a large bay window, we expect a bullet to shatter the glass; we see two assassins chatting, we expect a quick draw showdown at any moment. Every frame is composed as an imbalance only action can right. Every silence is stretched until a piercing gunshot seems inevitable. Occasionally it's an accurate prediction, but there's much more tension than there is payoff; that will some unsatisfied, but that's the joy of suspense is in this reviewer's honest opinion. Like in The Hurt Locker, the thrill isn't the bomb going off or the gun firing, it's the ten minutes before that as the tension boils over. And, like The Hurt Locker, The American is a movie that can only be seen once. If you know when the gunshots are coming, gone is the tension, along with the fun.

    If you go to this movie expecting two hours of George Clooney's velvet voice, you'll be very disappointed. He speaks about a total of fifty words from title to credits; he barely even smiles. But he does an excellent job playing a hitman very different from, say, John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction. No cocky monologues, no pre-kill wisecracks. Clooney quite deftly plays a subtly aggressive, dutiful ghost of a man; as much a modern samurai as can be without losing any humanity.

    EDIT 9/8/10: Review edited just a bit for better flow.

    The Guy With The Hat, billbobful, and 10 other people added this photo to their favorites.

    1. Ƀanzai [deleted] 44 months ago | reply

      Love the Lights!

    2. billbobful 44 months ago | reply

      I'm to lazy to read the long description, but nice pic, You're such a good photographer!

    3. Scruffy Mynxbane 44 months ago | reply

      i read it, and now i'm gonna have to look up antonioni. Like i get to see any movies these days anyhow. Someday, just to return the favor, i'll write up a detailed critique of The Expendables. :D

    4. Profound Whatever 44 months ago | reply

      Go see Blow-Up if you want a great Antonioni movie. It's slow, but deep. A great AHA! moment, too.

    5. Wafflebottom 44 months ago | reply

      what did you use for the tiles of the rooftop?

    6. Profound Whatever 44 months ago | reply

      Red 1x1 cylinders in columns, put at an angle.

    7. [Frost] 44 months ago | reply

      Reminds me of the beginning of inception :D

    8. Scruffy Mynxbane 44 months ago | reply

      i dunno, i gave up on art films a long time ago. They were like having a conversation with a really depressed guy who thinks he's smarter than you and has unraveled the mysteries of life but won't answer a single question to prove it. i don't mind good, thought provoking storytelling, or great cinematography or even an open ending or two but... maybe i'm too moral a character to enjoy the nihilistic, anti-establishment vibe most of those flicks seem to be peddling. i'm always searching for meaning and purpose, something to make the pointless depravity of life bearable. Cynics are disillusioned idealists, i'm a recovering cynic and art films are distilled disillusionment to me. Sorry for the open barn door on my soul but thanks for the suggestion anyway.

    9. Shadow Viking 44 months ago | reply

      "The comparison I've heard is Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Samourai,"
      "but I never finished that "

      ps- I wouldn't have expected this to be any good, but it sounds like it is. It always bugs me when trailers play films up as action-themed- has (temporarily) turned me off movies that turn out to be good before. Thanks for the review.

    10. Profound Whatever 44 months ago | reply

      Well, I'm a tried-and-true cynic who likes movies that portray humanity at its shadiest, so maybe our tastes are a bit different. But Antonioni is worth watching just to have it under your belt. His earlier work is very arty, but Blow-Up was his first English film, and it hit on a bit of a (here's a pretentious term) Hitchcockian sensibility. It's no Rear Window, but it's very smart in keeping its characters and their motives in the shadows. And not to sound perverse or anything, but it's also got Vanessa Redgrave in one of the sexiest scenes in movie history. The ending is a little cynical if you look at it that way, though, so I don't know. I'd try it just to try it.

      One day I'll finish Le Samourai; I was young and impatient and just couldn't get into it. But The American is no action movie. Very solemn, very introspective. It's In Bruges without the humor. It's a longshot, but I'd love to see it at the Oscars.

    11. yoshix 44 months ago | reply

      Grate Photo

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