Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The American (Brockway)

The American
Review by Ian Brockway

Anton Corbijn is known for his music video work of U2, The Joy
Division and Nirvana. In "The American" he shows his versatility,
presenting an apprehensive and haunting film under the guise of a
mainstream thriller.

George Clooney plays Jack, a hitman that wants out of the killing
game. Clooney is all Cary Grant with hard square edges. He is pensive,
edgy and paranoid. Yet abruptly he turns as rapid as the Autobahn and
his emotions are smooth and even. Quite a gift.
Indeed, as Jack takes refuge atop the cliffs of Italy, among a cluster
of winding white settlements that resemble angry dominoes, the film
owes much to Hitchcock's "North by Northwest" and European suspense
films like "Blow-Up".

As Jack moves from house to house, he peers along endless chalky
walkups. He suspiciously eyes businessman, flower peddler and priest
alike. No one knows his name and he spends hours looking out the
window, knitting his dark brows with old Hollywood glamour and
assembling a rifle with the precision of Superman.
The sound of the film alone is intimate with an affection for
naturalism: the sound of loose gravel on scuffed leather shoes or the
fumbling click of a gun, as rich and exotic as a cricket on a summer
night. The surprise and shock of sound arises as it happens in life
and nothing is ommited. Corbijn knows that the best suspense is often
from organic elements.

The cinematography is also expansive and as luscious as a "W"
magazine fashion spread. Huge closeups are paired with Hitchcockian
shots of Clooney's Grant-like brows and the back of his V-shaped
haircut as he does military style pull ups.

When Jack meets Father Bennedetto, (Paolo Bonacelli) his laconic
remarks seem like an echo of Albert Camus for the 21st century.
Enigmatic, silent and stressed, Clooney is an anti-hero with a long
tradition of apprehension.

There are no amphetamine-driven whirring punches here as in "The
Bourne identity" films. Where Jason is all crash and bash, Jack
meditatively trots, shoulders hunched, indecisively waiting among the
rock gardens of the mountain tenements. Much of his life is a checker
game of coffee and waiting. And one actually feels the silence.
The film is in itself an existential call for the wonder of understated filmmaking.
Even in its movie poster which echoes retro design, "The American" is proof
that The Master of Suspense can still
be spoken of and whispered softly.

No comments: