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Generally favorable reviews- based on 184 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 35 out of 184

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  1. Sep 23, 2010
    This is a wonderfully executed example of an intelligent and thought provoking character study. Once again, George Clooney is a class act with the guts to choose a great project that, sadly, most people will be too over-stimulated by today's mindless movies to truly appreciate. The film is highly engaging. Riveting, in fact, if you're not looking for the typical shoot 'em up action picture. If you're willing to get under the skin of The American, and really feel this guy's harsh reality, it's even shocking, not to mention heart-breaking, at times, and certainly a more realistic look at the life of an assassin than anything that's come out in a long time. Congrats to all involved in the making of the wonderful picture. Great job!!! Expand
  2. Sep 9, 2010
    This review contains spoilers. It takes one to know one; spies in a quiet Italian village, spies who can only be up to no good, and loud. The American recognizes the lady in shades as being from his tribe, and converges toward their rendezvous point, a cafe, with the purchase he just made from the cheese vendor. Jack carries with him a wedge of real cheese, not Cheese Whiz or Kraft singles, while his filmic limner, George Clooney, carries a real movie, a homage to, perhaps, the French New Wave, not cheesy action flicks or films in general from the post-MTV generation. Coming off the heels of Jim Jarmusch's "The Limits of Control", the moviegoer half-expects Jack to exchange matchboxes with the shady lady, but no, "The American" has a reverence for movie lore; it's not out to deconstruct the spy movie, rather, the filmmaker wants to slow the damn thing down. Mathilde(Thekla Reuten) simply gives Jack his next mission, his instructions, very old school, like something out of a Jean-Pierre Melville flick, or Fred Zinneman's "The Day of the Jackal", made so by the film's caterpillar-esque pacing and existential anti-hero. Moviegoers who pooh-poohed "The Limits of Control", in all likelihood, didn't know what Jarmusch(the most European of all contemporary American filmmakers) was deconstructing. "The American" knows. After all, wall-to-wall action doesn't ensue after Jack's briefing, instead the film goes into hibernation, a cocoon of deliberation and incremental suspense, before the chaos* begins, which is put forth into motion when Jack and Mathilde spot a rare butterfly during their "picnic". At its most self-reflexive, this ironically-titled film(in reference to its form and content, and historical context) offers a veiled critique of contemporary major studio films, as the Catholic priest(Paolo Bonicelli) doubles as an in-frame predictor of audience receptivity(some of whom will be bored by its retro tropes), when he criticizes Jack for making a guidebook on Italian architecture, even though the American possesses no sense of history(read: today's moviegoers watch films in isolation from the breadth of bygone eras and movements). Americans "live in the present" the priest offers, thus "The American" will seem tedious to them; the very same "tedium" which Jarmusch archly satirizes, this filmmaker celebrates as a narratorial elixir for the fast cars, fast women, and fast-vanishing ability of an audience to get lost in a story well-told. (*chaos theory- the butterfly effect) Collapse
  3. Sep 1, 2010
    Really enjoyed this. The cinematography was outstanding, Clooney did a fantastic job acting, and the story kept me interested, wondering what would happen next to him and everyone involved.
  4. Sep 4, 2010
    I think I might have been one of only two or three people in the theater who liked this movie... and I really liked it. To me this mystery thriller was about the assasin's (George Cloony) failed escape from hell. There was a strong moral element to this film, personified by a wonderful early morning scene in a park where an elderly Italian priest confesses to Cloony, and describes hell as a place where there is no love. That is the assassin's awful life. Although smooth and suave on the outside, and a guy who attracts beautiful women, Cloony's dark, haunted character is wracked by inner turmoil. I think the director is saying how utterly awful it must be to live like that - constantly in fear and without true friendship, trust and love. This film unfolds slowly, but it is a beaut. For adults only. Expand
  5. Dec 21, 2010
    Was very surprised that I came away actually loving this movie. This movie almost make me forget that Clooney ruined Batman (head bobble). I like movies that just tell a story without dumbing it down and adding narration or stupid lines to help explain what is going on. The film focuses on details instead. No subtitles no easy translation, but you still understand and feel what is going on. It's really not all that complicated anyways. The film is shot beautifully. Maybe it's best when Clooney is given a film with as few lines as this. Scenes with his new "friends" add depth. Even in the most serene and beautiful places danger is lurking. Expand
  6. Jan 2, 2011
    Brilliant and Beautiful. See this movie if you are looking for a thoughtful meditation on the psyche of an assassin who no longer has the desire to work as one. This is the story of a soul seeking something other than what he has, but he does not know what it is he is looking for or how to get it. Rather than this being a violent and dull-witted or depressingly repentant movie, though, it is full of life and even hope. There is action in the movie, but the action serves a purpose. Thus, it is not an "action-packed thriller" (like the ad would have the viewer believe), as much as it is a portrait of a human being seeking transformation of a sort - if not of the religious variety, certainly of the spiritual.

    The cinematography was excellent - beautiful natural images, very striking bits of composition in various room and street scenes, and a wonderful use of color. The storyline was somewhat canned, but the acting was very solid and some of the dialogue was exceptional in its deceptive simplicity. I will keep thinking about this one for some time.
  7. Apr 12, 2011
    Anton Corbijn's "The American" is one of those rare films that come along only once in a great while. Corbijn's has blended a methodical tale of redemption blending it with the meticulous characterization and absorbing pace of such films as Jean Pierre-Melville's "Le Samourai"(1967) or Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner"(1982). Corbjin has crafted such a quiet dialogue driven film with such lush and bleak cinematography that accentuate the dark yet emotional nature of this engrossing character drama. The way he uses colors to highlight the darkness like using green lighting in the dark alleyways or reds in a brothel, how he uses mute grays during the day to give this film an air of foreboding and dread, how death looms around every corner, how at any moment someone could die, he could die. Corbjin and screenwriter Rowan Joffe deftly combine old school drama, techniques, and characterization with modern day style filmmaking to construct a story that not only delves deep into the psyche of a professional assassin but also delves into the psychological aspects of the human condition. How death can play a very important part in how we live our lives and how we choose the path that we will follow for the rest of our days. "The American" is one of the best films of 2010, not solely based on its technical merits but on the merits of its intricately woven story of death, love and life how it spins the of-told story of an assassin trying to escape his life of death. This is a beautifully haunting film. A film that has been grossly overlooked due to its slow pace and lack of explosions, wall-to-wall action that is not what this film is about this film is about life, about love, about death and what is important in life. "The American" is the intelligent moviegoers film a film that must be looked at for more than what it is on the surface. Seen for the dark, methodical psychological outlook on human nature that it is This is one of the very best of 2010 and one of the best throwback drama-thrillers I have seen in a long, a true and shining statement that there is still some magic left in the movie business. "The Americanâ Expand
  8. Nov 28, 2010
    The American was not made for an American. It's a work of art. If you watch this movie expecting the Bourne Identity you'll be sorely disappointed, but if you have an open mind you'll realize the depth of the story, its characters, and its symbolism.
  9. Sep 6, 2010
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. One of my least favorite movies of all time. Walked out after an hour and a quarter. Didn't care what happened to any of the characters. Hope they all died in the end. T and A, oh so ho hum and of no interest to me. Certainly didn't save this tedious film. Clooney should keep his shirt on. George, I loved ya, but no more. Expand
  10. Sep 4, 2010
    I enjoyed it. I found the film to be bleak (which I like), the scenery beautiful, and the tension unrelenting. It took me a while to understand what was going on - but once I did, the movie seemed to follow an inexorable arc to its conclusion.
  11. Dec 29, 2011
    this movie was amazing, i loved it. i had read that it was very slow, lite on dialogue and heavy on atmosphere and that couldn't be more true. the movie was marketed as "George Clooney as Jason Bourne" type movie, which it is not (its the farthest thing for that). basically its about Clooney in a small Italian village in the alps, hes laying low after someone tried to kill him, and is asked to make a custom gun by his boss, and its his last job and you get the picture. so we know from the beginning that someone wants to kill him but were (and clooney) not sure who, so were constantly looking over our backs. the tensions grows throughout the movie and (without saying too much) it pays off at the end. i wouldnt recommend this to everyone (because it is so "slow"), but i think for some people it would be right up their alley (especially if you dont like the fast pace stupid action stuff like "the losers" or something). i really enjoyed it and it has stayed with me as one of the best movies i watched this summer (i know, i watched pretty late). Expand
  12. Sep 8, 2010
    I too specifically joined metacritic so I could put in my two cents worth on this film. Unlike the other reviewer I really did enjoy it., but I want to rant about a specific point. How hard must it be to find a competent firearms consultant these days? This was a movie about a gun for Pete's sake! 1) It was NOT an M14 as stated. It does not have a "rate of fire" This was not a machinegun. It only fires one round per pull of the trigger. 2) Why in the world would they have seen fit to include the velocity of the round if they were going to get it wrong by a factor of ten? They claimed it had the velocity of a Daisy BB gun. 3) They reinforced the notion that movie style "silencers" are real while drawing a false distinction between them and the correct identification as a sound suppressor, and then proceeded to dub in the Hollywood magic sound of a silencer. I realize the average movie go'er doesn't give a flip about any of this stuff but for those of us that like movies like this specifically because we get a kick out of guns is it asking too much spend a buck on some competent technical advice. If you'll take it I'd give you my advice for free Mr. Corbijn. Expand
  13. Sep 19, 2010
    In The American, George Clooney plays an assassin on a mission in Italy. With the intensity of Jason Bourne, he delivers an artful, exacting performance. This film is a fascinating addition to Clooney's work, but don't expect the dark humor he's known for in The Men Who Stare at Goats or O Brother, Where Art Thou? He's dashing but dead serious. There's no Daniel Ocean here.

    The American
    is an arty film adapted from the novel A Very Private Gentleman. Its scenes and close-ups are beautifully composed, like paintings. Cinematographer Martin Ruhe venerates the beauty and culture of Italy even as Jack (aka Edward Butterfly) carries out his dirty, murderous mission.

    But Butterfly's preparation is anything but dirty. Over a month he builds a gun and silencer with Zen-like discipline and concentration. With very little dialogue, Clooney keeps viewers fascinated with fastidious rituals (push-ups, chin-ups and daily coffee at a cafe).

    Violante Placido (the daughter of Simoneta Stefanelli, the actress who played Al Pacino's Sicilian wife in The Godfather), delivers a classy performance as Clara, a prostitute who becomes Edward's love interest. It is Placido who brings zest for life to the film. Her bedroom scenes with Clooney arouse and thrill. Yet the uneasy feeling that Butterfly can trust no one persists. Finally The American is about the meaning of one man's life. Paolo Bonacelli as Father Benedetto is the catalyst who gets Edward thinking about what he does and why he does it. When Edward calls his boss Pavel (Johan Leysen) to announce that this is going to be his last mission, it comes as no surprise.

    The American will appeal to seekers of a deep, thoughtful experience. It is a meditative character study that some - but not all - Clooney fans will enjoy. There is a quiet elegance to this film. Dutch director Anton Corbijn crafted it with great attention to detail.

    The American has not won wide critical acclaim. But it is the kind of film that a box office superstar like George Clooney can choose to make.
  14. Sep 11, 2010
    this film is like cilantro.
    people either love it or hate it.
    i loved it.

    the above review was rejected by metacritic because it wasn't 150 characters long !
  15. Sep 20, 2010
    Unfortunately, all of the people declaring this film to be boring make up the majority of the world we live in. Thankfully, not every movie is Armageddon, and some of us can enjoy a story without non-stop explosions and endless chase secenes. Clooney proves he is one of, if not the best, actors working today. Beautifully shot and thoughtfully paced, this is the kind of movie that used to get made more often, before focus groups took over the process. Thank you for this gem. Expand
  16. Dec 15, 2010
    This movie requires an attention span. It's a character study, not just another run-of-the-mill action movie, and if you know George Clooney, than you should come to expect a little more smarts in his films and observant writing, not just cheap effects. This is a terrific movie for a more mature audience.
  17. Apr 29, 2011
    I'm sure that this movie was misrepresented as a 'thriller' to get the Fast & Furious or Oceans 11 crowd into the theater. That would explain most of the negative reviews from users who don't ever have a single introspective thought. I guess I would be upset too, if I was expecting The Transporter 3, and instead found myself watching something way above my intellectual depth.

    This movie
    is excellent -- as long as you aren't the type who falls asleep if there isn't an explosion on the screen every 10 minutes. Expand
  18. Dec 6, 2010
    I confess, when I sat down in the cinema I was expecting to see George Bond, taking down his enemies with a smirk and a cheesy one-liner. I was very surprised by the film, and pleasantly so. The American tells its story through mood, tension and silence .. and does so very well. It sure ain't Hollywood. It's .. classy. There's just no other word that quite fits.
  19. Jan 23, 2011
    Brilliant movie that had me at edge of my seat the whole time. It's not just another boring action movie. Only intelligent people will enjoy this masterpiece.
  20. Mar 11, 2011
    Excellent, minimalist film, but has a good enough story and action sequences to keep it interesting. Overall very good acting; Clooney is excellent again.
  21. Aug 14, 2013
    We don't necessarily get a story about a master assassin as the blurb suggests, but what we do get is a heavy character study about the repercussions of such a lifestyle, and it couldn't be painted in more realistic form from George Clooney, who delivers a very subdued yet believably dangerous performance as the variously named assassin. We immediately realise the situation this man finds himself in, he trusts nobody and really cannot be around anyone for fear of being discovered, as the old threats used to go, you will be looking over your shoulder for the rest of your life, well this is exactly what the film consists of, a middle-aged man who must try to rebuild his life and escape his messy past, his actions in the opening moments of the film show just how far he will go to not be found.
    I also noticed very little dialogue throughout the film, instead going for very intense and thrilling scenes, quiet but engrossing as the story progresses, a story that isn't fully explained but doesn't need to be, our assassin is hiding out in Italy, where we learn of his other trade as a very talented gunsmith, something he seems at peace doing. What follows is a slowly paced and captivating encounter, with Clooney's character suspicious of every single person he meets or even lays eyes on, probably for good reason.
    The easiest thing to take away from the film is not necessarily what this man, Jack, is, but more so what happens after, we meet him in what can only be assumed to be the twilight years of his job, and the rest of the film plays as a study of the difficulties and challenges facing different choices made, loneliness plays a major factor but its focus and determination that keep this man alive. The film itself does have an acquired taste, its often slow and many will find it difficult to sit through, simply for the lack of what people may perceive to be very little happening, but thats the point of it, letting the talent tell the story through actions, facial expressions and decisions, this man constantly fears for his life, even though his past suggests he can handle the pressure, we see a broken and often paranoid individual, a human being. The promotional posters are truly misleading and this was definitely surprising, but in a very delightful way.
  22. Jan 10, 2014
    A restrained and disciplined presentation conveys style, subtlety, and finesse. Surprisingly, stillness and silence contain as much stimulation as any scene from a blockbuster action film. Each scene keeps you wanting a little more, as attractively mysterious things often do. I really liked jack, the priest and his girlfriend. All three displayed convincing depth. The gun building and shooting parts were sweet. Expand

Generally favorable reviews - based on 36 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 20 out of 36
  2. Negative: 1 out of 36
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.