The American

Set in the snow-covered Swedish countryside, the opening of “The American” features George Clooney chilling with a lady friend (Irina Björklund) until a hitman drops in unannounced. This sounds like the pre-credits sequence of a James Bond film, but the fast, concise action has more of a Bourne quality.

In any case, what follows is neither here nor there. There are a few more brief but effective chases and shoot-outs in this adaptation of Martin Booth‘s “A Very Private Gentleman”, and there’s a climate of muted tension that persists right until the very end, but this is not so much a thriller as character study, the story of a lonely, introspective antihero who’s clearly aching for a lasting human connection, but who’s afraid of letting his guard down.

The bulk of the film takes place in a small mountain town in Italy, where Clooney’s character, an assassin and weapons expert, is hiding out from the Swedes of the opening scene, while also working on a new assignment… But that’s kind of beside the point. Like I said, what really matters is what the protagonist is going through internally, and director Anton Corbijn is clearly more interested in mood, atmosphere and visual storytelling than in the plot.

“The American” is not quite a great film, but I loved Martin Ruhe‘s cinematography, Herbert Grönemeyer score and Clooney’s performance, not to mention the gorgeous European actresses that surround him such as Thekla Reuten as a female assassin and Violante Placido as an Italian prostitute.

If you’re expecting an explosive Hollywood blockbuster, this might not be for you. But if you’re a fan of minimalist, impressionistic genre pieces with a languid pace, sparse dialogue and a melancholy feel, you should be as captivated by “The American” as I was.