American Tragedy18 September 2010
The American, Anton Corbijn’s new film about an assassin-spy who hides out in Italy while he tries to finish his final job, has received very mixed reviews. The slow pace and minimalist script has thrown a number of people expecting to see another George Clooney thriller. Others, however, have recognized the fantastic cinematography and the impressive acting from a cast of relative unknowns.
What hasn’t been discussed as much is the classification of The American as a modern tragedy. Jack (George Clooney) cannot escape his past; neither can he seize his future. Attempts at honesty and romantic love are thwarted by his dark occupation. Only in the last ten minutes of the movie – spoiler alert! – does he try to get to Clara to tell the truth about him, and reaches her only as he dies. She has come out of her cocoon. But he is a stillborn butterfly.
The movie can be understood as commentary about the traditional male, I think. The opaque lives we live often never way to transparency. A desire to love is always handcuffed by mistrust and self-defense. Clooney’s wordless acting in that final stretch of road captures the tragic dynamic so well. He will die before he has the chance to love and be loved.