Famous for his moody music photography, Depeche Mode videos and the cult Ian Curtis biopic Control, director Anton Corbijn has developed a style and substance that has helped him land his first big Hollywood picture, and one starring George Clooney no less.
And despite the commercial lead, it has all the brooding hallmarks of a Corbijn, with its muted colours, limited dialogue and abandoned streets. Starting off in Sweden, we see assassin Jack (Clooney) relaxing in a cabin with his Swedish lover Ingrid, but once they’re fired upon, Jack flees to Rome where he decides it will be his final mission. Feeling tetchy and hunted, Jack skips from Rome to Castelvecchio and finally to Castel del Monte, where he settles into a monastic life crafting a machine gun for his last client. There’s a strangely seductive quality to the bespoke arms-manufacturing – think Hermès handiwork – but just as it starts to wear thin, intrigue comes from a priest and a prostitute, the first who questions Jack-now-Arthur’s beliefs and the second who falls for him before conning him into a date. Father Benedetto might well raise an eyebrow about Arthur’s lifestyle, but the assassin’s blunt assertion that ‘all men are sinners’ is as effective a silencer as the one on his gun. It’s refreshing to see a new (although ancient) Italy. Absent are the flourishing modern day clichés of oil-drizzled anti-pasti, sleek contemporary design and braggadocious brouhaha. Instead there are bleak cafes, dead towns and a dark, forbidding countryside. It’s the Corbijn mood, but bewitching though it is, the film falls flat with leaden lines like, ‘Thankyou for a lovely day, Mr Butterfly.’
‘The American’ is released in UK cinemas today.