The American Anton Corbijn

The American Anton Corbijn
I've always been a sucker for thoughtfully composed photography in film. I can take or leave elaborate visual effects and animation, but there's something about a deliberately framed shot and consistent use of colour to reinforce themes that keeps me engaged regardless of narrative shortcomings or weakness in performances. It's just an added bonus that Anton Corbijn's The American posits a Western throwback story of impossible redemption with a history of violence within these specific washed-out shots, coated with amber and pale blue ambiance, while characters divide the lines of the frame into sections of varying brightness. Our conflicted cowboy protagonist is hired killer Jack (George Clooney), a man who's retreated to the Italian countryside after a job ends badly. Accepting one last assignment constructing a high-powered assault rifle for a mysterious client named Mathilde (Thekla Reuten), he attempts to find solace with a local prostitute (Violante Placido), only to have his past catch up with him when various assassins arrive. In the brief "Journey to Redemption" supplement included with the DVD, Corbijn and crew describe the film as an ode to the works of Sergio Leone, which it partially is, only staging shootouts in alleyways and cafes rather than across the frontier. There's the same cynical worldview, paranoia and internal struggle with past sins versus present ethical crossroads, but I was reminded more of Antonioni's The Passenger than anything involving Clint Eastwood. Like Jack Nicholson's character in said film, Jack is an American conflicted with identity in a rural European landscape. His efforts to reach out to others are burdened by his secrets, captured with a similar stylistic restraint. Regardless, a classic sensibility permeates this tale and it's only ameliorated by the dignified, consistently breathtaking cinematography. One gets the sense that this film will be appreciated more so in five years than it is currently. We'll just choose to ignore the whole "hooker with a heart of gold" thing. Also included with the DVD is a commentary track with Anton Corbijn, which elaborates on the stylistic references within, but his accent can be hard to decipher, at times, making it a challenge to wade through. (Alliance)