The American (2010 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Anton Corbijn|
|Screenplay by||Rowan Joffé|
|Based on||A Very Private Gentleman
by Martin Booth
|Music by||Herbert Grönemeyer|
|Editing by||Andrew Hulme|
|Studio||This is that
|Distributed by||Focus Features|
|Running time||105 minutes|
The American is a 2010 American thriller film directed by Anton Corbijn and starring George Clooney, Thekla Reuten, Violante Placido, Irina Björklund, and Paolo Bonacelli. It is an adaptation of the 1990 novel A Very Private Gentleman by Martin Booth. The film bears a strong similarity to the film Hard Contract (1969) which starred James Coburn. The film opened on September 1, 2010.
Jack (George Clooney), a gunsmith and contract killer, and his lover Ingrid (Irina Björklund) are relaxing in Sweden. Jack becomes alarmed by a single pair of footprints in the snow. Sniper gunshots soon ring out. Ingrid watches Jack pull a gun from his pocket and shoot the approaching sniper. Knowing his identity is in jeopardy, Jack shoots and kills Ingrid. He flees to Rome and contacts his handler Pavel (Johan Leysen) who insists that Jack cannot stay in Rome. Pavel gives him the keys to a car and sends him to Castelvecchio (a small town in the mountains of Abruzzo). Jack becomes nervous, and, disposing of the cell phone which Pavel had given him, goes to nearby Castel del Monte, Abruzzo instead.
While in Abruzzo, Jack contacts Pavel, who sets him up with another job. He meets Mathilde (Thekla Reuten) who wants him to build a custom-designed sniper rifle for an assassination. He also begins patronizing a prostitute, Clara (Violante Placido) and they begin a relationship separate from her business duties. Jack meets with Mathilde to test the weapon and she is impressed by the craftsmanship, but asks that Jack make a few more adjustments. Later, Jack realizes that he is being followed by an assassin from Sweden, whom he kills.
Jack is tormented by dreams of the events in Sweden and regrets killing Ingrid. His relationship with a local priest Father Benedetto (Paolo Bonacelli) causes him to question his life choices. Both Mathilde and Clara notice Jack's association with butterflies, Mathilde by his expertise on endangered butterflies and Clara by his prominent tattoo. When Father Benedetto tells Jack he senses he lives in a special kind of hell, "a place without love," Jack begins to allow himself to feel love for Clara and envisions a life with her.
Jack talks to Pavel one last time, asking how the Swedes have possibly found him. His paranoia grows to the point that even Clara comes under suspicion when Jack discovers a small pistol in her purse. While on a picnic, he sees Clara reach into her bag and he retrieves a gun from inside the picnic basket; ultimately, she takes a tube of sunscreen from her bag and asks a greatly relieved "Edward" to put some on her back. In the car, Jack questions Clara about the gun and is satisfied with her explanation (to defend herself, since there have been newspaper reports of murdered prostitutes). She asks him to take her home with him, but Jack refuses.
Jack agrees to deliver the weapon to Mathilde as his last job, but at the last moment he reopens the briefcase and deliberately sabotages the rifle. At the drop-off, Jack becomes suspicious that Mathilde plans to kill him. Before anything can happen, a busload of school children arrives, and the two separate. While driving away, Mathilde is contacted by Pavel, who asks if she has killed Jack. She tells him she has not, but insists that she is following Jack and will kill him.
Clara meets Jack at a religious procession in town. Jack asks her to go away with him and she agrees. Mathilde attempts to assassinate Jack from a nearby rooftop, but the rifle backfires and explodes in her face. Seeing Mathilde fall from the roof, Jack gives Clara an envelope full of cash and tells her to go to a river where they had picnicked and wait for him. He runs to Mathilde, who is dying on the pavement, and discovers that she also works for Pavel.
As Jack goes to meet Clara, he notices that Pavel is following him. They exchange gunfire, and Pavel is killed. As Jack drives to meet Clara at the river, he feels his abdomen and realizes he has been shot. Jack arrives at the picnic spot and as he sees Clara, he collapses. Clara screams and runs to the car. A white, endangered butterfly flits skyward from Jack's car as his fate is left ambiguous.
- George Clooney as Jack/Edward
- Violante Placido as Clara
- Thekla Reuten as Mathilde
- Paolo Bonacelli as Father Benedetto
- Irina Björklund as Ingrid
- Johan Leysen as Pavel
Filming began in September 2009 and took place in Castel del Monte, Abruzzo, Sulmona and Campo Imperatore in the Province of L'Aquila; in Rome, and in Östersund, Jämtland and other locations. As the Clooney character drives from Sweden to Italy, and during the credits, there is an impressively long drive through a tunnel, such as the 10 mile long Gotthard Road Tunnel.
The "most romantic moment", per Corbijn, of the film – when Jack takes Clara to a restaurant of her choice, their "actual date" above – was filmed at a restaurant in Pacentro, Italy, near Sulmona. Pacentro is known for among other things being the town from which entertainer Madonna's father hailed. The comic-acting waiter in this restaurant scene was directed to stand in front of a two-bulb lamp fixture so that he appeared to have "devil's horns." Photographs on the restaurant's walls are reportedly of all the lovers of an early-20th-century poet from the town. Clara orders Montepulciano d'Abruzzo wine for the dinner, and Corbijn said the film's company enjoyed many of the fine wines of the region during the months of production there.
The film score was written and composed by German singer-songwriter (and longtime friend of Anton Corbijn) Herbert Grönemeyer. A 1967 song called "Window of My Eyes" by the Dutch blues band Cuby & the Blizzards is played over the ending credits. The aria "Un bel dì vedremo" ("One fine day we'll see") from Puccini's opera Madama Butterfly can be heard in the background of one scene and "Tu vuò fà l'americano" in another. In another scene the Italian song "La Bambola" by Patty Pravo plays.
"Western" films and other influences
Once Upon a Time in the West, with Henry Fonda facing off as villain in a gunfight, is playing on a television on the back wall of a modest restaurant where Jack has been eating. Director Corbijn in the DVD commentary noted this homage and said the American Western, and more specifically the Italian-American so-called spaghetti westerns produced by Leone and others, were explicit models for The American. Corbijn also noted the Ennio Morricone scores which became famous for Once Upon a Time in the West and other Leone titles like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Speaking of the narrow, labyrinthine streets of the Italian hill towns where much of the action of The American occurs, Corbijn said he was thinking, in filming, of the streets of Venice and the way they appeared in Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now (1973).
The first official poster was released on June 17, 2010. The first trailer was attached to Robin Hood and the second official trailer on June 19, 2010, and was attached to Jonah Hex, Grown Ups, Inception and The Other Guys.
The American received a generally positive response from critics, garnering a 66% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 211 reviews with an average score of 6.5/10. Its consensus states "As beautifully shot as it is emotionally restrained, The American is an unusually divisive spy thriller — and one that rests on an unusually subdued performance from George Clooney." Similarly, another review aggregator, Metacritic calculated an average score of 61 based on 36 reviews.
Roger Ebert gave the film four stars, writing, "Here is a gripping film with the focus of a Japanese drama, an impenetrable character to equal Alain Delon's in Le Samouraï, by Jean-Pierre Melville." Leonard Maltin called it a "slowly-paced, European-style mood piece, short on dialogue and action and long on atmosphere."
Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an unusual D- rating. This was attributed to audience disappointment after the film was marketed as being more action-oriented. "The American is a lot of things, but it is not an action movie. Not surprisingly, audiences hated The American — earning it an unheard of D-minus from CinemaScore."
The film grossed US$13.1 million, opening at No. 1, ahead of Machete which grossed US$11.4 million on the Labor Day weekend. The American grossed a total of US$67,876,281 worldwide – US$35,606,376 in North America and US$32,269,905 in other territories. The film was given an R-rated rating by MPAA for sexual scenes and strong nudity.
The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on December 28, 2010.
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- Official website
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