Anton Corbijn’s follow-up to Control (which, admittedly, I haven’t seen) is a film with measured pacing and an attaché case full of style but it doesn’t quite carry enough weight to really stick around.
George Clooney is the titular American – an old hitman, getting tired of the life. While hiding out in Italy he takes the cinematically doomed One Last Job. He’s a cold customer, who tries to keep everyone at a well-tailored arm’s length. Of course, he cannot help but make a connection with two people - a priest and a prostitute, carrying more than a wiff of symbolism.
Some might call the pace of the movie is somewhat slow; I prefer to think of it as measured. Adding to the feel of the slowed-down pace is the lack of constant dialogue - Clooney's character barely speaks, saying only what he needs to, when he needs to. He is, as the title of the source novel tells us, a very private gentleman. He no longer wants the life of globe-trotting assassin/armourer for hire (it is never stated who he works for. He has a contact/boss but even this is barely touched on) having no lasting relationships; he's tired of it. Basically he's having a very sombre and picturesque midlife crisis.
Everything about this film is restrained: from Clooney reining in his usual charm, to the meticulously composed shots and the slowly unfolding story. Nothing much really surprises: you can pick how everything is going to end up and who's behind it all within the first Act. But that's not really the point Corbijn and screenwriter Rowan Joffe are going for; the primary narrative takes a backseat as the sub-plot, while the character arc takes centre stage.
It's obvious where Corbijn is pulling a lot of his choices from: this has a definite 70's aesthetic (as you can see from the poster). Not in a tongue-in-cheek way, or paying homage to the cinematic era; instead it feels like it could have been lifted direct from the decade. But, in the end, it really takes itself far too seriously. It doesn't carry nearly as much thematic weight as it thinks it does. The American is very, very good with more care and intelligence invested in it than much else out at the moment. It's just not... great.