Director: Anton Corbijn

Writers: Rowan Joffe

Principal cast: George Clooney, Violante Placido, Paolo Bonacelli, Thekla Reuten and Johan Leysen.

Release date: 26th November 2010.


Based on the novel A Very Private Gentleman by Martin Booth, Corbijn provides an existential thriller starring George Clooney as an assassin relocated to a small town for one last job. As romance blossoms with local beauty and prostitute Clara (Placido), the killer for hire ultimately questions his life.


Corbijn made his name in the eighties and nineties with moody photography and portraits for the alternative rock scene and more recently provided the Ian Curtis/Joy Division biography Control (2008).

The introspective atmosphere is continued here with the ghost of the Albert Camus novel The Outsider always present and an existentialist theme of an individual shunning society and relationships whilst undertaking killings with an almost workman like quality.

Ultimately, the thriller has a muted feel and dialogue is kept to a minimum throughout the short running time of 105 minutes.

Clooney's central character Jack/Edward is relocated by boss/contact (Leysen) to a small northern town where he is to design a sniper rifle for a female assassin (Reuten – who portrays her rifle woman with an astonishing matter of fact level headiness and almost indifference).

The rustic beauty and quietness of the Italian scenery and provincial towns provide an ideal introspective backdrop to allow the character to question his life and is further enhanced by Corbijn's experienced camera work with moments of beautiful moody imagery. As lone church bells ring we are reminded that death and the nature of Jack's job is never far away.

Gradually the new found environment and his conversational pieces with a local priest (Bonacelli in a very dry and almost dour performance) allow Jack to question his existence. But it is the emergence of local beauty/hooker Clara which provides a possible new start and a decision that this is the last job.

Placido who seems to spend more screen time naked than clothed provides a ray of light with her character's upbeat but worldly experience and thus relieves the sombre mood of the other characters with a likeable assured performance.

The action or should I say violence when it does arrive is abrupt and sudden and only serves to emphasise the dangerous cycle of danger that Jack/Edward has learnt to live with.

Clooney is excellent as always and his Jack/Edward has echoes of the fixer character from the excellent Michael Clayton (2007), but the film's continuously guarded dialogue and heavy themes demand a lot from the viewer and may leave some feeling indifferent towards its characters.


A creative, likeable and very solemn thriller with the theme of the outsider at it's core, The American is heavy going but rewarding nonetheless.

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