Generally favorable reviews - based on 36 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 20 out of 36
  2. Negative: 1 out of 36
Watch On
  1. The American is a very . . . patient movie, the inverse of an action thriller to an almost comic degree. With Clooney it's an interesting project. Without him, it would simply be boring.
  2. Aided by a strong soundtrack by Corbijn's friend Herbert Grönemeyer, The American nevertheless seems more like a concept in search of a movie.
  3. 50
    The film is overripe with erotic symbols.
  4. 50
    This story of a hit man who wants out after performing this one last job is so threadbare, trite and predictable that not the star's formidable charisma nor the considerable talent of director Anton Corbijn can come close to erasing its deficiencies.
  5. A slow, grim, atmospheric but virtually plotless look at a blank-faced loner who is obsessed with his work, has no friends except for one woman inexplicably attached to him, and ends up making those around him miserable.
  6. 50
    George Clooney produced and stars in this international spy thriller, which he probably thought of as existential but which registers onscreen as a giant bore.
  7. 100
    Here is a gripping film with the focus of a Japanese drama, an impenetrable character to equal Alain Delon's in "Le Samourai," by Jean-Pierre Melville.
  8. The movie is a paradox. It's ostentatiously restrained. You cannot say Corbijn lacks rigor. You can, however, say that when a talented director's approach too precisely mirrors the tightly calibrated performance strategy of his leading player, a movie risks stalling out completely.
  9. At some point in their careers, most male actors want to play (a) Hamlet, and (b) a hit man. I hope that Clooney has gotten "b" out of his system.
  10. The role requires Clooney to dial down his charm to nearly zero, and frankly, he looks twitchy and uncomfortable without it.
  11. While many of its elements whet our appetite and make the film well worth seeing, The American doesn't manage to deliver a fully satisfying meal. It's against the film's religion to have us believe too deeply in its characters, and that agnosticism, combined with the plot's sense of predestination, put a noticeable crimp in its grand ambitions.
  12. 75
    Corbijn makes the familiar strange, focusing on details other filmmakers would gloss over.
  13. 90
    Anton Corbijn's The American looks and feels like a movie made by a filmmaker who hasn't been to the movies since the '70s - and I mean that as the highest compliment.
  14. By the time The American is finished, it feels like one great big pointless exercise. With George Clooney on the poster.
  15. The American, a movie as coiled as a snake and as still as a sleepy villa, is the rare grownup thriller that knows the link between peace and danger and the tension that comes from both.
  16. 25
    A pretentious Euro-snore that should occasion a fraud prosecution for any marketer who calls it a thriller -- and which stars an actor who seems to wish his name were Jorg Clooné.
  17. 75
    Crisp, compact and cryptic, The American is a standard-issue hit-man thriller tailor made for George Clooney.
  18. Heavyhearted without being heavy-handed, Corbijn's lyrical movie is about a man who has built his own cell and become his own jailer.
  19. 67
    It does a nice job of balancing stillness and action, but it hits weakly when it hits at all and falls short of the small grandness to which it aspires.
  20. 75
    Anyone who understands what The American offers should come away pleased with the final product.
  21. 63
    It's a tale so used, abused and broken you can hear it wheezing.
  22. Reviewed by: Sam Adams
    What redeems the movie, and then some, is the soulful weariness of Clooney's performance, which is in some ways an earthier and less glib version of the go-go axeman from "Up In The Air."
  23. It does for hit men what "Up in the Air" did for frequent-flying corporate terminators, minus the comic tang.
  24. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    If you're willing to let go of your Hollywood-bred expectations for a movie of this type-spectacular action set pieces, constant pulse-pounding music, a killing every 15 minutes-The American is a great pleasure to watch, an astringent antidote to the loud, frantic action movies that have been clogging our veins all summer.
  25. Best appreciated as an exercise in style. Based on Martin Booth's novel "A Very Private Gentleman," the film establishes and sustains a mood of suspense, but Corbijn seems only minimally interested in conventional thrills.
  26. 75
    He's (Corbijn) a patient, fastidious filmmaker with a great eye-ideal for his subject here-but his austerity doesn't entirely erase the suspicion that he doesn't have much on his mind. His film is a triumph, but it may be a triumph of style over substance.
  27. The dread in the film is so quickly forgotten. What remains is an urge to fly to Italy, rent an apartment in a medieval city and invent your own adventure.
  28. Nothing really adds up, and the ending is downright absurd. You would like even the most austere, doctrinaire existential movie to earn its downbeat ending. This one fails utterly to do so.
  29. 60
    It is a reasonably skillful exercise in genre and style, a well-made vessel containing nothing in particular, though some of its features - European setting, slow pacing, full-frontal female nudity - are more evocative of the art house than of the multiplex.
  30. 60
    Inside the stony exterior of The American beat some tired old ideas about innocence and redemption. How can you make an intellectual thriller and put a whore with a heart of gold in it?
  31. Reviewed by: Mary Pols
    The dreariest thriller of the year.
  32. The film's mood is so somber and minimal, it might be confused for deep. Had the plot (meager and one-last-job-predictable) zipped along, that wouldn't feel like such a problem.
  33. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Clooney has excelled in serious roles - notably in "Michael Clayton" and "Syriana." But his Jack, a brooding assassin seeking redemption, is a bigger departure, and he pulls it off well.
  34. Reviewed by: Mark Olsen
    Despite its director's disinterest in letting people in, there is nevertheless something exciting about a movie this uncompromised, in which the big change from the book to the screen actually toughens up the story instead of watering it down.
  35. With its retro pacing, its pretentious lapses and its narrow emotional range, this elegantly crafted existential thriller risks alienating its audience; at times it feels like a test for attention deficit disorder.
  36. 50
    An action thriller that adamantly refuses to deliver action or thrills, instead engaging in a brand of arty, self-conscious formalism rarely seen outside repertory theaters or cinema-studies classrooms.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 193 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 46 out of 76
  2. Negative: 24 out of 76
  1. Sep 3, 2010
    A self-consciously pretentious artsy-craftsy flick. Sometimes less really is less, and this is such a case. Excruciatingly boring. One wondersA self-consciously pretentious artsy-craftsy flick. Sometimes less really is less, and this is such a case. Excruciatingly boring. One wonders why Clooney would subject himself to such a miserable script. Full Review »
  2. Sep 6, 2010
    This movie was so slow moving i closed my eyes for a few times and never missed a beat. i'd recommend waiting to see it at home when you canThis movie was so slow moving i closed my eyes for a few times and never missed a beat. i'd recommend waiting to see it at home when you can speed through it. imagine stretching the action of the 2 minute preview for 100 minutes and thats what you are in for....its a great nap movie Full Review »
  3. Sep 29, 2011
    "The American" is quite and poetic, like those old japanese samurai movies. The movie shoots the core of what its trying to say, giving a"The American" is quite and poetic, like those old japanese samurai movies. The movie shoots the core of what its trying to say, giving a appeal to the heart rather than eye candy visuals. In the end, the audience who are more mature would definitely watch this. Full Review »