Corbijn delivers pressure cooker drama

George couldn't remember if he'd turned the oven off

 RUNNING TIME: 1 hour 45 mins

 DIRECTOR: Anton Corbijn 

STARRING: George Clooney, Violante Placido, Thekla Reuten, Paolo Bonacell  

GEORGE Clooney stars in this unsettling thriller about an assassin on the verge of leaving his killing days behind.

The second directorial offering from photographer Anton Corbijn (Control), The American is beautifully shot to the backdrop of a remote Italian village.

Jack (Clooney) is “laying low” while he finishes his last job: making a custom-made rifle for a mystery woman who changes her hairstyle at every clandestine meeting.

The rest of his time is spent in a state of perpetual suspense, avoiding the relentless prying of the local priest (Bonacell) and fending off a stream of anonymous Swedish hitmen.

In keeping with dysfunctional loner behaviour, he takes time out from brooding to fall in love with Clara (Placido), a local prostitute, who chips away at his defensive facade.

But while this seems fairly action-packed, the pace simply simmers within the claustrophobic walls of Castel del Monte.

The sedate surroundings of this peaceful village are key to the contrasting violence and eroticism. The days are lit with drained blues and greens, the nights are bathed in danger-filled auburn and red.

Cramped, winding streets offer the perfect setting for nocturnal chases with every twisting corner hosting the potential for another gun-wielding Swede.

The dialogue is muted; lines are sparse but when they are uttered from our brow-furrowing anti-hero, they are loaded with unexplored meaning.

The characters exist only in the pressure cooker walls of Castel del Monte, there is no luxury of history or explanation attached to these people and we are left wondering the whys and wherefores.

Why does the mysterious woman want a gun? Who is trying to kill Jack? And what unspeakable event lurks in his past that makes him so damn miserable?

Don’t expect answers. Corbijn deliberately avoids depth in favour of lingering landscapes and bird’s-eye views of car journeys on spaghetti-like roads.

Gratuitous, maybe, but as a talented photographer he captures stunning snapshots of an unfolding drama, with no apology for its lack of past or future.

Existential in nature and stark in its sudden bursts of bloodshed, The American is a slow-burning but ultimately beautiful offering.

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