I recently went to see the movie “The American” (Anton Corbijn director)starring George Clooney as Jack, an aging hitman. The flic has a very European feel to it and has been criticized for being slow paced. But the Italian scenary is drop-dead gorgeous; one critic calling the visuals “sumptuous.” And the plot has a strong existential aura, a rat-trapped-in-maze feel to it.
Critics are polarized about the movie. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 64 percent approval rating, posting comments like:
“character study of an enigma that cannot be truly understood”
The film reminded me of a couple of movies that I enjoyed while I was young and on my Franco-Belgium Mormon mission: (1) “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold” and (2) “The Stanger.” Both movies were based on classic literature, the former by John le Carre and the latter by Albert Camus. Both books and movies deal with alienation, existence-weary men caught in absurd and confusing situations. Alec Leamas, Arthur Meursault, and Jack are all trapped in a Kafkaesque web that is beyond their control.
“The American” can be viewed on several levels. For me, it is a parable about the difficulties of understanding the human condition. It presents a picture of the confusion and alienation that most of us feel, at one time or another, in our lives. It can also be viewed as a critique of American culture. Or it can just be enjoyed as a thriller that is pleasurable to the eyes.
There is some violence in the movie (several die). The basic characters, which include a hitman, his handler, a priest, and a prostitute, are a bit trite. But luckily, the chase scenes are limited and don’t distract from the existential feel of the movie.
Because of its atmospheric pace and sexual situations, it is a film for adults. But thinking adults will enjoy it.
Recommendation: See it, don’t walk to the theater . . . run.