Movie Review - 'The American' - A Domestic James Bond, Drawn In Miniature George Clooney's latest outing showcases a more internal performance -- as an assassin whose personal life threatens to further complicate an already hard-to-manage career. Kenneth Turan says Anton Corbijn's drama is impeccably composed and beautifully shot -- if a little lacking on the emotional urgency front.
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'The American': A Domestic Bond, Drawn In Miniature

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'The American': A Domestic Bond, Drawn In Miniature

Review

Movies

'The American': A Domestic Bond, Drawn In Miniature

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/129474712/129620883" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Now let's talk about one your entertainment options as we head into this holiday weekend.

George Clooney is an actor who seems equally at home in big summer blockbusters and serious smaller films, and his latest is an attempt to combine the two.

Ken Turan has our review.

KENNETH TURAN: "The American" is a bleak, distant thriller that's easier to appreciate than to love. If an austere European minimalist had directed a James Bond film, it might have turned out like this. George Clooney plays Jack, a top-of-the-line American assassin facing a crisis. People are shooting at him for no apparent reason, so Jack retreats to Italy and confers with his contact in a deserted cafe.

(Soundbite of movie, "The American")

Unidentified Man (Actor): (as character) Take her outside the bar, then second left. You'll find a dark blue Fiat Tempra with Biscara(ph) plates. I've marked a small town on the map, Estovekia(ph). Stay there. Lay low till you get my call.

TURAN: Soon enough Jack gets an assignment, to construct a high quality weapon for another assassin, a mysterious woman. Jack also has time for a steamy liaison with the gorgeous Clara.

(Soundbite of movie, "The American")

Ms. VIOLANTE PLACIDO (Actor): (as Clara) I'm here.

Mr. GEORGE CLOONEY (Actor): (as Jack) What are you doing tonight?

Ms. PLACIDO: (as Clara) I work tonight.

Mr. CLOONEY: (as Jack) Dont. If I asked you to come away with me, would you?

TURAN: She's the latest in the long line of stunningly beautiful movieland women who just happen to be working as prostitutes in out-of-the-way bordellos. Who knew?

Jack is a very different, more removed character than Clooney usually plays, a man all but unreachable behind his dark glasses. It completely avoids the actor's usual high-wattage smile and suave good humor.

Director Anton Corbijn is a former photographer, so every frame of "The American" is impeccably composed and beautifully shot. This high level of craft is satisfying, but it can involve us emotionally for only so long.

Jack's girlfriend brings some life to his existence and the movie, but don't get your hopes up. For while many of its elements whet our appetite and make the film worth seeing, "The American" doesn't manage to deliver a fully satisfying meal.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and for the Los Angeles Times.

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