Though its trailers and poster suggest that "The American" is an action-packed spy thriller, those expecting a film in the vein of Jason Bourne are sure to be disappointed. Instead, star George Clooney's latest is moody, contemplative, and slow burning-- think "The Bourne Identity" as filtered through the eyes of some Euro art house auteur.
The story is simple. Irish American Clooney plays the titular operative (Jack), a professional assassin with a special knack for constructing custom weaponry. Fresh off an assignment that almost ended in his death, Jack is relocated to a quiet Italian village where he is tasked with assembling a special rifle for another assassin. Along the way he meets a prostitute with whom he falls in love and decides that his most recent assignment will be the last. Naturally, complications ensue.
Though it may sound like a conventional thriller, "The American" is anything but. Beautifully shot by director Anton Corbijn, the film moves slowly and deliberately as it examines the soul of a man who kills for a living. The dialogue is sparse, the score unobtrusive, and the violence utterly void of stylization. The film is a spy movie made for the art house crowd-- a somber, melancholy character piece receiving a wide release solely because of Clooney's name above the title.
"The American" is certainly not for everyone. Many will find the pacing and lack of action to be on the boring side. If that's the case, go see Stallone's "The Expendables" (at 63, that man stills knows how to make one hell of a crowd pleaser). That being said, if you find yourself in the mood for a quieter, more thoughtful alternative to most of what's out at the moment, "The American" is certainly worth the trip.