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LibrarianDeb

The American (2010)

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I'm a fan of Control, Corbijn's previous movie. That was more in line with his music-video background, though. It'll be interesting to see what he does with a project a little further out of his comfort zone.

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The trailer has just been posted online, and it looks pretty good.

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An amoral assassin-type goes to Belgium for one last job. So, it's In Bruges 2?

No that I'd have any problems with that.

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I cannot, for the life of me, keep Anton Corbijn's Joy Division Control and Nimród Antal's Budapest subway film Kontroll straight in my head. Whenever one mentions one, I think of the other. Suffice it to say, I was pretty excited there for a second.

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Jeff Wells notes that Corbijn blogged a couple weeks ago about doing some re-shoots recently, including some scenes that feature a brand new character played by "veteran Belgian actor Johan Leysen". Wells comments: "Last-minute shooting with a brand new character? Hmmm."

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Kyle Smith says the film is being screened for critics on August 30, only two days before it opens -- never a particularly promising sign. But I know of at least one city where, last I heard, critics will be seeing the film on August 23. So is it just New York that's getting to see the film so last-minute?

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Ebert gives the film 4 stars, compares it to Le Samourai (always a good sign in my book):

The entire drama of this film rests on two words, "Mr. Butterfly." We must be vigilant to realize that once, and only once, they are spoken by the wrong person. They cause the entire film and all of its relationships to rotate. I felt exaltation at this detail. It is so rare to see a film this carefully crafted, this patiently assembled like a weapon, that when the word comes it strikes like a clap of thunder. A lesser film would have underscored it with a shock chord, punctuated it with a sudden zoom, or cut to a shocked close up. "The American" is too cool to do that. Too Zen, if you will.

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Didn't like this at all, aside from Clooney's performance and the cinematography.

1. There was at least one inexplicable and unnecessary plot twist

2. I felt like the camera was leering at the female lead most of the time, perhaps because she was naked for a significant part of the movie

3. Ending was aiming for something profound but seemed rather cornball to me

4. Even the cinematography, while beautiful, seemed redundant. There were a lot of aerial shots of curving roads and wide shots of quaint Italian architecture, but we saw the exact same approach with Corbijn's U2 movie last year, "Linear." On the plus side, many shots last for five seconds or more and the film is completely devoid of "shaky cam." It actually seemed quite retro that way.

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On the plus side, many shots last for five seconds or more and the film is completely devoid of "shaky cam." It actually seemed quite retro that way.

Your last comment undid whatever case you were trying to make for me not to see this one. :)

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On the plus side, many shots last for five seconds or more and the film is completely devoid of "shaky cam." It actually seemed quite retro that way.

Your last comment undid whatever case you were trying to make for me not to see this one. smile.gif

Same.

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I watched The American this weekend. I really appreciated the pace and attention to detail throughout the film, but after it was over, I couldn't get past the fact that it's really just another "one last job" story. On that note, I want to watch In Bruges again.

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I loved the trailer. I don't think I see enough "one last job" films for that to bother me. I've got a feeling this is our Labor Day choice for tonight.

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From Kenneth Turan's review: If Robert Bresson, the austere French minimalist, had directed a James Bond film, it might have turned out like this.

There's probably some truth to that. Maybe if The American had been a little MORE minimalist it would have been better. And if the trailer hadn't sort of implied that it was more on the "James Bond" suspense-thriller end of the scale, my father, sister & brother-in-law, and 19-yr-old niece wouldn't have chosen it for our Saturday matinee over Get Low (which is, let's face it, a harder sell from the synopsis, plus, my sister: "I don't like Bill Murray"). They all hated it.

I hated it somewhat less, but ultimately felt it was a very pretty exercise in futility. Maybe some viewers need to see/hear the film's message. I don't, particularly. Clooney's performance was probably the best thing about it--other than the cinematography, as many have noted.

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For those who have seen the movie:

How did Clooney's character know that Matihilde was going to try to kill him? All I caught was that she called him Mr. Butterfly when she shouldn't have known that nickname, but it seemed like there should have been more than that.

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I agree that was a flaw, Tyler. That, and an extended sex scene that, while I can see why they did it the way they did, it was still unnecessarily prolonged. More later.

Edited by Persona

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... an extended sex scene that, while I can see why they did it the way they did, it was still unnecessarily prolonged. More later.

As mentioned earlier, I saw this movie with my family, including my college-sophomore niece. We knew it was "R," of course, but during that scene, my niece leaned over to her mother (my sister) and said, "I don't think I'm allowed to watch this, Mom." Her mom & I didn't think we were allowed to watch it, either.

Afterwards, we noticed a family coming out of the theater who had two children with them who couldn't have been over 10. My sister was pretty steamed.

Edited by BethR

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... an extended sex scene that, while I can see why they did it the way they did, it was still unnecessarily prolonged. More later.

As mentioned earlier, I saw this movie with my family, including my college-sophomore niece. We knew it was "R," of course, but during that scene, my niece leaned over to her mother (my sister) and said, "I don't think I'm allowed to watch this, Mom." Her mom & I didn't think we were allowed to watch it, either.

Afterwards, we noticed a family coming out of the theater who had two children with them who couldn't have been over 10. My sister was pretty steamed.

This is what I meant when I said that I felt the camera was "leering" at the female lead. Nudity and sex scenes are one thing, but this sex scene (as well as the scene at the river) seemed to go on several minutes too long, seemingly just so Corbijn could let the audience stare at the woman.

They get a bad rap here, but this is where "cuss word counting" reviews from Plugged In and CT's "family corner" can come in handy if you're planning to take young 'uns with you to the theater, or if you're an adult who sees the wisdom of limiting your intake of certain content...

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Why do so many George Clooney fans love him but dislike his movies?

That trend was brutally on display with "The American," which drew a pitiful CinemaScore of D-, one of the lowest of the year for any wide opener not named "Splice." (Actually, that's not true either -- "Splice" at least pulled a D.) And the grade for "The American" is hardly an anomaly: Over the last few years, Clooney's wide openers -- the best test for a megastar -- have routinely been handed poor marks by audiences. Clooney's screwball football comedy "Leatherheads" managed just a C from CinemaScore voters. In 2002, Clooney's "Solaris" remake earned a rare CinemaScore distinction, the kind you don't want: an F. And it's not just those surveyed by the research firm: Last year's military spoof "The Men Who Stare at Goats" drew just a C+ from Box Office Mojo readers.

It would be one thing if Clooney's movies were grossing $50 million or $60 million over their opening weekends and landing these bad grades; that would mean they're catching a lot of non-Clooney fans in their nets, and so mediocre marks would be understandable. But these movies are attracting not the masses but the the small group that loves him. So why do so many of them dislike what they see? . . .

Los Angeles Times, September 7

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Other than the two flaws, I was pretty taken with it. I don't know that it is the kind of film I want to see twice -- not for any moral or ethical reason at the scene I mentioned, but because it's the kind of movie you see once and that's pretty much all you need.

I frankly don't know where the D- comes from, other than people like the narrative doltishness and blockhead lines of a film like Salt. The American is intensely quiet, much more real, and for that it is a fun ride. Language aside, it feels like film noir.

The prostitute even gets away with the money in the end

I hated it somewhat less, but ultimately felt it was a very pretty exercise in futility.

Which is the point, more or less. You walk into this kind of movie -- a hitman movie -- and like the "heist" genre, there's nothing here to morally root for. Your loyalty is turned upside down. Every character has a side to them that is unlikeable, and most play off like they are unredeemable, too. So what do we do? We switch to human instinct mode. That's when we realize that we are rooting for a.) the character we identify with the most, which in this case is obviously Clooney, and b. ) human survival in general, which is what we root for when all our heroes have let us down.

The sex scene reminded me of discussions here regarding A History of Violence, because there was a point to it -- a way of showing exactly how these two are connecting -- but it is still more graphic than we needed.

No one goes down on a prostitute or kisses her on the mouth unless something is happening there that is more than a John and a hooker.

I think I would give it a solid B, but once you've seen it, you can simply file it away.

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