The American (2010)

“The American” (2010)

IMDb

backfire

The best way to enjoy this film is to be aware of its references, to know by heart the grounds it steps on, and than simply relax into it. To take it for what it is, to go the places it takes you.

This is made surrounding an idea by now relatively explored: to make a genre film which empties its own genre. A film which is its opposite. An ironic approach on an idea, touching it, caressing it, making a homage to it, yet reversing it completely.

The absolute master of this notion was Leone. That’s where we stand here, in the solid building of self-referential irony that he built for us. In my book, Luc Besson also stands high in this corner of the film world. Corbijn was certainly seeking after Leone, so clearly that he makes the direct reference in the film, where we see an excerpt of one film.

So the general idea is that of an anti-film. A potential action film, with a potential action character who is literally running away from action, literally trying to get out of the film where every other character seems to be framing him. That’s the ultimate twist, the ultimate joke on the spectator. We can laugh with the joke. And having George Clooney starring here is a double joke. He built a career around a cool yet funny, funny yet deep guy. He winks to the audiences all the time, creating a kind of second layer of acting, in which you watch the character and watch the guy. Here he gives up on that. He deliberately plays the game of the film, surrounds his own public persona and probably gives us his most important role in films.

*spoilers here*

The story includes a very subtle yet powerful token to its fundamental conceptions. Clooney’s character has to build a weapon, personalized for a certain uncertain job. We see him throughout the film doing it, calibrating it, making it according to the wishes of the person responsible to use it. We see the off field of what we usually see. In film vocabulary, guns are usually irrelevant, a mcguffin at most, usually just a prop. Here we see every phase of its conception and building, and testing. Again, Corbijn builds on the genre, the promise of a hit job, only to deceive us to the very end, when the gun deliberately backfires. What is usually irrelevant (the building of the gun) is brought to the center of the narrative, almost accidentally. This is really great writing, and great filmmaking. I wonder why Corbijn only started directing features a few years ago.

Italy is another little irony. Leone the Italian, would go to spain to film his supposedly American located stories. corbijn goes to italy to film the Leone referenced films that he never shot there.

My opinion: 4/5

This comment on IMDb

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