Anton Corbijn was destined to compose a great second film. The Dutch photographer-turned-director who made a splash in 2007 with his terrific Ian Curtis biopic "Control," has crafted a sexy and taught European thriller about an assassin on one last mission in the remote Abruzzo region of Italy. Based on Martin Booth's novel "A Very Private Gentleman," George Clooney is Jack, an aging hit man on the run from a group of dangerous Swedes who want to kill him. On the brink of retiring, Jack accepts one last mission to supply an exceptionally skilled woman assassin (Thekla Reuten) with a rifle he will build to her exact specifications. Clooney plays his character of walking contradictions with an alternating intensity and sensitivity that registers on screen with an intricacy that's a delight to savor. Clooney's mercurial performance represents his finest work in an already refined career. Anton Corbijn's intuitive sense of scale and composition create an unforgettable regard for a unique region of Italian culture where, in this case, earthy romance and unseen danger collide. His emphasis on silence over sound gives the film a refreshing sense of time and space. During a year when Scorsese and Polanski have each delivered incredibly lush thrillers, it says a lot that "The American" surpasses them both on a compositional level. "The American" is a perfect thriller.
Rated R. 105 mins. (A) (Five Stars - out of five/no halves)
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