Have you heard of Nick Pittsinger? If you’ve been on the internet recently, you may noticed his handiwork in the form of pop songs slowed down 800%, creating entirely new music. From a Justin Bieber song emerges an ethereal, nearly half-hour score that satisfies far greater than the original product. So what would happen if you slowed down a movie like The Bourne Ultimatum 800%? You’d get a zen thriller like The American.
George Clooney plays Jack, an under-stated assassin who needs to hide out for a while. After being ambushed on a snowy lake in Sweden, he evacuates to Rome where his handler sets him up in the Italian mountains with a new, quieter task. Jack isn’t much for friends, relying only on hired help, eventually falling for a particular girl. When the Swedes catch up to him, he begins to suspect everyone. It’s in the long, first shots of the film that we see where the film is going. All of the photography here is brilliant, making for incredible atmosphere in a purely ‘wait a bit‘ fashion. If Rick Steves’ Europe didn’t get you excited about the Italian countryside, The American will.
There’s not much to say about the film because the beauty is really in the presentation. Long establishing shots dominate, but never hinder or seem pretentious. When the action arrives, it does so in highly disciplined fashion. The film is more a meditation on who Jack is and what stage of life he’s in- sitting silently, working or conversing with the natives. It’s not for everyone and it’s most certainly not a film for those expecting a never-ending deluge of Bourne-like, shaky-cam action; this is an open thought on the professional assassin. Maybe it’s because the marketing mis-sold the film, but I think expectations should be tempered going in: The American is a grand experience if you let it wash over you.