Cinema, as Andrei Tarkovsky has elucidated, is a temporal
medium, by which he meant that a filmmaker sculpts time through images to evoke
emotions in the viewer. It is heartening to see a filmmaker get it right in his
first attempt. "The American" is a film of quiet restraint meant to be
watched for the beauty of its aesthetics.
Cinematic tension is not necessary in a fast-paced story and "The American" shows why. Jack (Clooney) is an assassin, who after a bid on his life, hides in a small town in Italy and is jittery about everything. He gets a new job, but when he mentions that it will be his last, his boss does not like it. In the little town, contrary to his own nature, he befriends a priest who sees through him and asks him to absolve himself, and a prostitute who falls in love with him, and he too, despite his suspicion, begins to feel for her. But a dangerous past is never easy to shake off.
There isn`t much action happening on screen, yet the translation of Jack`s solitude and fear is graphic, and is palpable to the audience. The strength of "The American" is not the action on screen, but the action that plays in the audience`s mind. It is a film that inspires a refined imagination in the viewer`s mind.
"The American" soars on three stellar performances, the emotionally restrained performance of actor George Clooney, the haunting, breathtaking cinematography of another first-timer to cinema, Martin Ruhe, and most of all the stillness of Anton Corbijn`s direction.
Clooney gives one of the best and most convincing performances of his career in this adaptation of the novel "A Very Private Gentleman" by Martin Booth. But the real winner is director Anton -- who so far has made videos including many for U2 and a biopic on singer Ian Curtis -- who despite a slow, lilting pace, manages to create a tense thriller. The impeccability of his timing makes him a talent to watch out for.
Sadly, Indian audiences will miss out on key moments, censored for their nudity. Deleting these important scenes makes for a jarring jolt in an otherwise smooth film. Also, the cuts may make it hard for audiences to understand the transformation in the mind of Jack. Giving an adult rating to the film, and yet cutting out portions does not make sense.