Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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The American

Film #154


An assassin hides out in Italy for one last assignment.

Year 1, Day 154

BEFORE: On this wonderful first day of December, there is snow falling and the beginning of a two-day George Clooney chain. Kicking it off is the 2010 film, The American which from what I can seems to be like a mix of James Bond and Jason Bourne so it should be an interesting film to watch.

AFTER: While there are certainly elements from the Bond and Bourne franchises present in The American, the mood of the film does not even begin to compare. Instead of going for a fast-paced and action-packed thriller, the director Anton Corbijn aims for a more intimate, character-driven film. And Corbijn nails it, maintaing a level of suspense and intrigue even without a lot of visual flair normally seen in espionage films.

For large portions of the film there is no dialogue and minimal music and sound effects. As I’ve said a few times before, this can either be a hit or miss. Either the director can use the lack of sound to enhance the visuals or it can backfire and make the film painfully slow and hard to watch. In The American, Corbijn has the former: a great visual story with minimal sound that keeps you guessing about what’s coming next. If the film had been a wall of sound, the appeal would have been lost. The American is not Skyfall or The Bourne Legacy; the entertainment isn’t in the action, it’s in the events between the action. And so to have little dialogue, music, and sound effects, is not only fitting for the tone of the film, but makes it that much more entertaining.

Besides sound, another big aspect of the film is its pacing. The pacing is also unlike a typical espionage thriller; it’s extremely slow. In Peter Travers’ review of the film he said, “[Anton Corbijn] holds his film to a steady, often glacial pace.” For Travers this was a downside to the film. I on the other hand found it to be a benefit. The pacing compliments the minimal sound and just adds to the overall feel and mood of the film. At times it does become glacial and it like an abrupt halt to an otherwise continuously moving plot.

The American will be sure to deliver some entertainment, snowy day or not. I do have a stipulation though: while I thoroughly enjoyed the film, it is not going to be a substitute for a Bond or Bourne film. There are two levels of expectations - both are entertaining but for different reasons. A fan of one will not necessarily be a fan of the other. It’s a great watch though if you’re look for something different and refreshing.

RATING: 4 out of 5