21 November 2010

Up in the Mountains

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from George Clooney's latest film, The American, and I probably wouldn't have gone to see it had I not got a free ticket for the preview but it came across as being very similar to the last film of his that I saw (Up in the Air) but with a much prettier backdrop. In both films, Clooney plays a character whose job makes it nigh-on impossible for him to have friends or get close to people--in Up in the Air, he plays someone who travels around to fire people and in The American, he plays someone who travels around to fire guns at people (and also make the guns). In both, though, there are women who break through his barriers and make life more complicated from him.

The American opens in a bleak, snowy Swedish landscape and after a short shoot-out resulting in several deaths, Clooney's character hot-tails it to Rome to await his next assignment, which turns out to be going to a small village perched in the mountains of Abruzzo and to rendezvous with a woman named Mathilde who, it transpires, needs him to make a very specific kind of gun. Clooney's boss warns him not to make any more friends but he ends up growing close first to the village priest and then to his favourite prostitute, Clara, and promptly falls for the latter and decides to get out of the hired assassin/gunsmith, which is, of course, easier said than done.

As with Up in the Air, the point where Clooney's character loses his edge and lets someone in is the point where the film starts to lose its momentum and its way, although in the former, the character seems to have the job that he does because he wants to isolate himself from people, while in the latter, he is forced to isolate himself from people because of the job that he does. There are twists and potential betrayals right until the end but nothing mind-blowing and the motivations of some of the characters are confusing and not properly explained.

Overall, it was a solid film, although at times it seemed to work better as an advert for the tourist board of Abruzzo than as a thriller. As the Aussie sitting next to me put it, "That was a bloody beautiful way of disguising soft porn." And I bet Nespresso are disappointed that of all the coffee Clooney's character drinks in the film, none of it is Nespresso.

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