Tomorrowland: daring to dream is no bad thing

Walt Disney was a dreamer and a visionary, there’s no doubt about that. Beyond his theme park he created the EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) centre. He wanted a futuristic community to flourish where inventors could invent and dreamers could dream, free from life’s issues – and EPCOT was the start of that journey.

These days EPCOT is thought of as the permanent World’s Fair, but nothing more, if we’re being brutally honest. Disney’s vision never really came to pass.

Fast-forward to 2015 and modern-day dreamers Brad Bird (The Incredibles) and Damon Lindelof (Lost, The Leftovers) took on the challenge of bringing it to life, on the big screen at least. The results are mixed, but at least they dared to dream.

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Plot wise our story starts with Frank (George Clooney) and Casey (Britt Robertson) recounting their tale – to camera – of how it all happened. We flashback to Frank’s childhood where he meets Athena (Raffey Cassidy) and discovers Tomorrowland in all its inventive pomp and wonder. We then jump forward to modern times and how Casey meets Athena and later on Frank, and how she learns that the wondrous version of Tomorrowland she’s seen may not be the reality. Plus there’s some shady characters after them, of course.

These days, getting a completely new blockbuster off the ground is a hard task. You need to set up the world, introduce the characters, then give them something to fight for (which the audiences believes in too). In the case of Tomorrowland all this takes a while. We follow events from Casey’s point of view and, as teenage heroines are all the rage lately, we’re expecting her to kick ass and take names, sort of. But that doesn’t really happen, she’s no Katniss Everdeen and it’s not that kind of film.

Disney's TOMORROWLAND..Casey (Britt Robertson) ..Ph: Film Frame..?Disney 2015

Whilst there’s peril it’s more your Saturday-afternoon-for-all-the-family kind of peril. I recently saw director Brad Bird’s debut film, an animation called The Iron Giant. It’s wonderfully sweet with some great character moments. Critics panned it at the time but it’s since become thought of as a modern animation classic.

Will Tomorrowland go the same way?

It’s hard to tell right now. It’s by no means a bad film, but maybe the concept has a few too many holes and the plot needed a tweak or two to really sing.

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Fundamentally, the problem lies in the fact that it takes far too long to actually get to Tomorrowland. Like Casey, we’re itching to get there but frustrated until the film’s final third. By all means take your time if you’re adapting literary material (allowing a few films to get to Mount Doom in The Lord of the Rings is completely acceptable) but holding back the land we’ve come to see until almost the end is rather mean-spirited.

Perhaps Lindelof as the writer is to blame. With Lost he kept so much hidden until almost the show’s final season that, as a viewer, you went a little mad. C’mon, show us the good stuff!

This wouldn’t matter if the early vision Casey – and the audience – see of Tomorrowland wasn’t so enticing. But it is. Bird and Lindelof have let their imagination run wild and as Casey frolics with gay abandon through the land there’s so much on screen to take in. It’s a visual treat and put me in mind of Guillermo del Toro’s troll market in Hellboy II (if that had a 1960s aesthetic and was bathed in sunshine. Maybe Hellboy meets The Jetsons).

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Back on earth – and halfway through the film – there’s a tense but thrillingly exciting sequence at Frank’s house where Casey and Frank flee the bad guys. His inventions are, well, highly inventive and cinematically pleasing (although they veer a little towards Men In Black at times). More of that would have been welcomed, as long as it served the characters. But all that stuff is just fancy trimmings, the meat on the bones is the plot and it needed more love.

So it’s fun, inventive, a nice love letter to Disney and dreamers but, plot wise, you may end up feeling like you’re stuck in a queue on one of Disney’s rides you weren’t entirely sure you wanted to take.

Trailer park: Ultron, Tomorrowland, Crimson Peak and Aloha

To butcher Led Zeppelin lyrics a little, there’s a whole lotta love out there for a whole lotta films coming out in the next few months. Too many to go through in much depth, but here’s a few I’d like to briefly pick out for your consideration.

Avengers: Age of Ultron
Ok, not everyone is a fan of this current glut of superhero films, yet this one really does look impressive. And so it should, given the budget, cast and studio muscle. At one point or another it’s all going to implode, it has to. But for now, I’m on board.

Tomorrowland
This film started life as a theme park ride and whether it turns out to be a franchise behemoth a la Pirates of the Caribbean remains to be seen. What we do know is that Clooney is attached, and he rarely joins doomed projects, so it could be a blast.

Crimson Peak
It’s high time Guillermo del Toro got back to what he does best… inhibiting a niche genre perhaps only rivalled by Tim Burton. But where Burton comes at his stories from more of an oddball outsider perspective, del Toro opts for horror and macabre fantasy.

Aloha
Ah, the sweet and observant writer-director Cameron Crowe, who doesn’t love his films? His last beautiful little story was We Bought a Zoo in 2011, so he’s been out the game a while. This looks like a good return to form with a cracking cast to boot.

Labor Day: Reitman’s most heartfelt film?

20131103-LYALL-slide-7RAH-articleLarge As a director, Jason Reitman appears to be growing up fast. Labor Day is the fifth feature length film he’s given us and his progression as a storyteller is clear to see.

This film, set in a sleepy suburban American town in 1987, tells the story of Henry (Gattlin Griffith) and his mother Adele (Kate Winslet) whose life is gatecrashed by escaped convict Frank (Josh Brolin) in a supermarket at the start of Labor Day weekend. He effectively holds them hostage, at least initially, until the coast is clear. Yet what then develops is a complex relationship between the three of them that is both tender, affecting and very human.

With Reitman pulling the strings – the man behind Juno and Up In The Air – you’d expect snappy dialogue and snazzy, snarky characters.labor-day-review-9 Here he strips the story right back and the majority of the film is told in looks and glances, eyes darting back and forth as characters try to figure each other out.

As Reitman is a wonderful observer of human interaction, this perfectly plays to his strengths and no doubt tested both himself and his cast. The two leads, Brolin and Winslet, rose to the challenge like masters at work. The film is warm in tone too. Set in the late ’80s the whole thing appears bathed in the golden glow of late summer. Like one happy memory. It’s not all sweetness and light though. The whole film is tinged with sadness, loneliness and loss.

If you take Reitman’s last two films (Young Adult and Up In The Air) there’s a strong sense of loneliness in both the main characters: Charlize Theron’s Mavis Gary and George Clooney’s Ryan Bingham – they’re both searching for a genuine human connection. labor-day-movie-picture-2Here Winslet’s character continues that theme with possibly the most convincing performance of one of Reitman’s leads.

Apparently he wrote the script specifically with her in mind and kept the film on hold until the actress was available. You can see why too, it’s a compelling performance from Winslet, one of her best since 2008 when she won awards for The Reader and Revolutionary Road. Ultimately this film represents a shift of gears for Reitman, and indeed perhaps a more mature direction. He’s drawn brilliant performances out the cast – Winslet in particular – and created a piece of work that is both moving, well observed, nostalgic and highly engaging.

Can’t wait to see what he does next.

Monuments Men: an admirable flop?

the-monuments-men-reviews-george-clooneys-delayed-nazi-art-movie-isnt-that-greatIf George Clooney has a passion project there’s a fair chance it will get made. He’ll recruit a good cast and pick a good story to tell. All these things you can consider crossed off. Done. Dusted. This time round he chose to adapt a book: The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel.

The plot, if you’re not familiar, is based on this true story. Ah, a dangerous Hollywood caveat you may cry, for ‘based on’ and what actually happened are often two very different things. But before we get to that, the story as it stands.

Near the end of WWII Frank Stokes (Clooney) persuades US President Roosevelt to let him put together a team to recover works of art stolen by the Nazis, then return said works to the rightful owners. As it’s based on a true story – one that’s crying out to be retold (having been told, in part, in other films before) – you can see why Clooney jumped on it.

It’s a noble and important part of history, one which hasn’t particularly been addressed in modern cinema. It’s also – potentially – epic in scope too. Beautiful locations, with an exciting dramatic need that drives our main characters; a ragtag bunch of unlikely heroes that they are. The pieces are all in place.George Clooney;Matt Damon;John Goodman;Bob Balaban
So… what do we get? A drama? A comedy? A caper? Well, none of these really. Or bits of all of them, depending on your point of view.

It begins with a montage of Art Curators Assemble!, with Stokes putting together an ageing team which, on casting, look to mostly be there for comedy purposes: Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman etc. The trailer too, suggests a ‘caper’; Ocean’s Eleven with Nazis or Saving Private Ryan the comedy years perhaps? Puts me in mind of a running gag in ‘Allo ‘Allo! which focused on the Nazis and the French Resistance attempting to keep hold of ‘The Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies’ by Van Klomp. So it’s a comedy right? Well, no. Not exactly.

What we actually get is a rather plodding and inert tale of a bunch of guys that – upon finding they’ll get no help from superior officers in the field – decide to attempt to protect and recover the art largely on their lonesome. Nothing wrong with that you might say. But it’s tackled in such a pedestrian way that, as a viewer, you find yourself desperate for some jeopardy. Tanks, guns, evil Nazis… something.monuments_men
Perhaps part of the problem is that the main cast spend precious little time together. Once in France they split up and head off across Europe on various missions. It’s not all doom and gloom, there’s some good scenes along the way and the cast do what they can with the moments they have, but it just feels languid and, ultimately, unengaging.

And, as is the way with Hollywood butchering history, there’s a fairly heavy focus on Americans saving the day, largely ignoring the real life efforts by the British in this project. But we’re used to that, and could forgive this lapse if the script had some zip and vigour about it.

Despite all that, it’s important this film was made and the story was told. But maybe a TV miniseries would have given these characters room to breathe. This approach worked incredibly well for Band of Brothers. I guess we’ll never know now… but hats off to Clooney for an admirable effort.

Gravity: the tale of Houston in the blind

gravity-movie-review-sandra-bullock-shiopAlfonso Cuaron drives me nuts. There I’ve said it. His films are so immersive, so real, they frequently leave you gasping for air. That’s very much the case in Gravity when our protagonist, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), is dangerously low on oxygen. In fact, there isn’t a time when she’s not in serious peril. You can see why this film wouldn’t work beyond 90 minutes, it’s exhausting.

Never have I scrunched up my toes for the duration of a film before, dammit Cuaron! What, in essence, I’m trying to say, is that Gravity is a pure sensory experience and the first – and hopefully last – time we’ll see 3D used in the way in which it was probably intended (i.e. in space with things floating around and frequently exploding). I’ve heard this film be described as something of a novelty in that sense, and I suppose it is: other directors take note, don’t make Gravity 2, please.

gravity3To backtrack a moment, plot wise it’s thin on the ground and, from what I’ve read, it’s intentionally this way. We don’t need a vast amount of backstory to sympathise with these characters. We start out with veteran space man Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) helping Bullock’s rookie astronaut, Dr. Stone, fix something. They’re quickly informed some pesky Russians have blown up one of their space stations starting a chain reaction of debris orbiting the planet. Clever plot point, as we get almost regularly timed sequences of mayhem as Stone and Kowalsky spend the rest of the film trying to make it back to earth in one piece.

To keep the experience as immersive as possible Cauron, to his credit, doesn’t cut away to earth to see what Houston are up to, he doesn’t provide flashbacks to tell us why the characters are doiGRAVITYng what they are doing, it’s obvious what they’re doing, trying to survive.

There’s also the fact that, if you avoid these little screenwriting tropes, the tension stays high. Cuaron wants us on edge, he wants us there in space with them. The 3D really helps in that sense, with blobs of liquid and other space paraphernalia occasionally hitting the camera; a nice touch by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezski, a man known for staggering natural beauty in his shots.

He’s worked with Cuaron before, as well as Terence Malick, making him – along with Roger Deakins – Hollywood’s go-to guy for gorgeous scenery and sumptuous wide shots. A perfect fit for Cuaron’s vision of the vast and eerily beautiful vacuum that is space.

And if we’re talking tone, this is no Apollo 13 but perhaps closer to Duncan Jones’ Moon or J.C. Chandor’s latest All Is Lost; a film where Robert Redford makes up the entire cast and saysandra-bullocks-gravity-interviews barely a word for the duration. It also has elements of Danny Boyle’s Sunshine.

That’s not a criticism, just an observation. Clearly this is a technical masterpiece and has pushed the boundaries of what 3D – and indeed cinema – is capable of achieving. Hopefully it’s a one-off, but chances are we’ll see various attempts in the next few years to replicate this sort of thing.

In short, this film is a tense and exhausting technical triumph. Praise for Cuaron is entirely justified, as it is for Bullock too. But let’s just preserve and enjoy their work and keep it as that, shall we?

Take your ass back to the trailer park – part 2

blue is the warmest colorWith Oscar season almost upon us, there’s a lot of films out now or soon that should have you racing to the cinema. From drama, action and horror to comedies and a compelling biopic, here’s my pick of marvellous movies you need on your radar.

The Monuments Men (Feb, 2014)
Based on a book of the same name, this film has caper written all over it. Comparisons will inevitably be drawn with Ocean’s Eleven, as Clooney and Damon again take centre stage. This, however, is based on a true story. Essentially it’s ‘art curators assemble!’, as an unlikely band of misfits team up to recover works of art stolen by the Nazis during the war.


Kill Your Darlings
(Dec, 2013)
Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan play Allen Ginsberg and Lucien Carr respectively; with the film focusing on the birth of the beat generation’s most well known writers: Ginsberg, Karouac and Burroughs. Despite putting in a respectable turn in The Woman in Black, Radcliffe is still – for some out there – trying to establish himself post Potter. From the looks of it he’s gone some way to achieve that. DeHaan, too, continues to establish himself as a growing talent.


Nebraska
(Nov, 2013)
Rival to Wes Anderson’s quirky crown comes in the form of Alexander Payne; the man behind Sideways and The Descendants and a director on the rise. Here he tells the tale – filmed in black and white – of Bruce Dern’s Woody Grant; a man who think he’s won a million dollars and sets off on a road trip to claim his prize. It’s already won a stack of awards and received lavish praise from critics. If you like quirky, human films it’s a must-see.


Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
(Dec, 2013)
Actor, producer, singer, rapper… Luther! Stringer Bell! Stacker Pentecost! Is there anything Idris Elba can’t do? Apparently not as he’s now playing Nelson Mandela in this epic portrayal of the great man’s life. The film’s red carpet release coincided, tragically, with his death. In terms of the film, it looks to be a stirring affair but has received mixed reviews.


Carrie
(Nov, 2013)
Big cajones… that’s what you need if you’re going to remake a Brian De Palma classic. The 1976 original blew people away being universally praised and rightly so. So big cajones, in this case, comes in the form of Chloë Grace Moretz (fast developing as one of Hollywood’s best young female talents), Julianne Moore and director Kimberly Peirce – best known for her award winning debut Boys Don’t Cry (1999). As far as remakes go, it has promise but received mixed reviews. If you’re a fan of the original and/or Moretz, it’s worth checking out.


Her (Jan, 2014)
Here’s a brave move: take one of the most attractive women in Hollywood – one, Scarlett Johansson – and have her play a role where we only get to hear her voice. Brave or genius? Either way, it’s the sort of thing you expect from enigmatic director Spike Jonze. This film sees Joaquin Phoenix’s lonely writer develop a relationship with an operating system voiced by Scarlett. An intriguing idea – although puts me in mind Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, an episode called ‘Be Right Back‘ starring Hayley Atwell and Domhnall Gleeson.


The Raid 2: Berandal
(Mar, 2014)
Welsh director Gareth Evans and breakout star Iko Uwais are back with their sequel… Oh yes! The original film had a simple premise (bunch of cops get trapped in a drug lord’s tower block and have to fight their way out) and the sequel immediately picks up events from the first; with Uwais’s Rama going undercover with gangs to bust corrupt cops. Same old, same old you may say – just watch the trailer.


300: Rise of an Empire
(Mar, 2014)
THIS IS A SEQUEL! Sorry, couldn’t resist. Actually it’s a sequel, prequel and a sort of during-quel in some ways. Covering events before, during and after the 2007 original. Obviously we’ve got no Gerard Butler this time round. Filling the gap looks to be a heroine in the shape of the delicious and delectable Eva Green. What with this and Sin City 2, Eva’s star looks to be on the rise next year. A pleasing thing as she’s a mesmerising screen presence.


Blue Is The Warmest Color
(Nov, 2013)
This French romantic drama is the first film to win a Palme d’Or for both the director and lead actresses. Also the first film adapted from a graphic novel to win the award. Essentially it tells the tale of two female students who fall in and out of love. Critics have heaped praise on it with award winning director Pedro Almodovar naming it in his 12 best films of the year.

Viva Las… Blackpool!

donkeyblackp460Funny story. A few weeks ago I was catching up with friends and we were discussing that mighty rite of passage; the stag do. Conversation turned to when one of the lads (let’s call him chap 1) might pop the question, given the fact he’d always said his would be Vegas. Another lad (chap 2) – also getting married around the same time – said he was a bit stuck on location. I mean, how can you top Vegas?

I jokingly suggested the Vegas of the UK, Blackpool. Then watched with amusement as the idea took hold. With chap 2 sorted that left chap 1; would he ever pop the question? Then it happened; all the guys at the table simultaneously received a text, ‘Get ready for Vegas!’. Chap 1 had showed his cojones and she’d said yes. Vegas was on, Blackpool was on… all in all, a productive Sunday.

This got me thinking. As pre-trip ‘homework’ we should watch Vegas films to get us fired up. But then, what about Blackpool? And so… to compare and contrast, here’s my selection of film and TV that’s featured these two hedonistic and beguiling locations. Make of them what you will.

LAS VEGAS

That glittering, filthy jewel in the heart of the Nevada desert. The glamour, the lights, the debauchery. Vegas has featured in many films over the years, here’s a few of my favourites.

SwingersSwingers (1996)
Vince Vaughn largely broke onto the scene with this film, written by Jon Favreau (who went on to direct Iron Man) and directed by the under-appreciated Doug Liman (who went on to direct The Bourne Identity). Ultimately it’s a buddy movie about how a guy gets over a break up with a little help from his friends. There’s a lot of these type of films for women but not many for guys. In one part Trent (Vaughn) persuades Mikey (Favreau) to take a trip to Vegas to take his mind off his ex. What follows are some sweet scenes where the two hang out and chat up women, with Mikey failing in increasingly embarrassing ways.

Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
fear-and-loathing-in-las-vegasBoth Martin Scorsese and Oliver Stone tried to get this film off the ground and failed. It took the wonderful weirdness of Terry Gilliam to get it made. As your attorney I advise you to get wasted and watch this film. It’s a melting pot of insanity. Based on a Hunter S. Thompson novel it sees journalist (Johnny Depp) go on a series of psychedelic escapades round Vegas with his attorney (Benicio del Toro). Thompson shaved Depp’s head himself for the role, and that’s among one of the film’s most normal anecdotes.

Knocked Up (2007)
Continuing the drug-addled theme, although not quite to the extent of the last film, this one features scenes with Seth Rogen’s Ben and Paul Rudd’s Pete, as they head to Vegas to escape their women and cut loose. mouthfist1Their idea? Tickets to Cirque du Soleil and a bag of mushrooms. They return to their hotel where Pete takes stock of the room’s chairs and Ben verbally abuses him on his inability to accept love. If you’ve had mushrooms before you’ll agree this is one perfectly observed and hilarious scene.

Casino (1995)
Take a moment to consider the talent: Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Sharon Stone, James Woods, yes, even him. This came five years after Goodfellas, yet to me always felt like a companion piece. Pesci was on searing, frightening form as unhinged gangster Nicky Santoro, casino-1995-10-ga perfect foil to De Niro’s buttoned down casino owner Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein. Throw a wild harridan of a wife, Stone’s Ginger McKenna in the mix with Scorsese at the helm, and you’ve got one of the finest movies about gangsters, gambling and casinos ever made. Looking back, it’s films like this that get me excited about Scorsese’s forthcoming The Wolf of Wall Street.

Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
Remaking the ’60s Rat Pack original is no easy thing. You’re going to need someone with oodles of charisma. Step forward George Clooney. Hell, if you’re going to cast one Mr Charisma, why not two? Step forward Brad Pitt. Need substance as well as style? Step forward director Steven Soderburgh. This film not only looked like an ace in the hole on paper, but boy did it deliver. Oceans-11Bright, breezy, sassy, smart, stylish, and packed with brilliantly written and performed scenes. Sadly the sequels got a touch too smug and self-referential, but that takes nothing away from how fun and watchable the first one was. It holds up to repeat viewings too. A modern classic.

Finally on Vegas, there’s two more I’d like to mention: The Hangover (2009) should get a nod as a top-notch comedy, partly responsible for launching the career of Bradley Cooper. Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls (1995) should also get recognition. A film so clearly revelling in its own gloriously terrible trashiness, you can’t help but love it.

VIVA BLACKPOOL!

Anything the Americans can do, we can do better… ahem. Ok, perhaps what we can do is wholeheartedly embrace our Britishness, with all its glorious quirks and eccentricities. Hopefully summed up in fine fashion with this list.

thetrip_rbrydon_gq_5aug10_bbc_btThe Trip (2010)
Comedy giants Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon wandering around the countryside of Lancashire, Cumbria and Yorkshire, hanging out in restaurants doing impressions galore. What more do you need? Not only are their impersonations quite brilliant, but the chemistry and banter between the two is a joy to watch. This semi-improvised series contained some real gems, such as the Richard Gere scene. ‘I’m listening to you in an interesting way, continue.’

Boy A (2007)
Before Andrew Garfield became everybody’s favourite spider-based superhero, his career largely began with this film, based on a novel of the same name. boy aIt charts the life of Eric Wilson ‘Boy A’ on trial for murder as a young lad. Upon release from prison as a young man he focuses on becoming a better person, but the past comes back to haunt him. The film deals with how society views crime, punishment and rehabilitation, and it’s not a stretch to say it puts you through the emotional wringer. Indeed, Garfield won a Best Actor BAFTA in 2008 for his performance. The full movie’s now on YouTube, watch it here.

Nowhere Boy (2009)
Another British lad-turned-good-in-America. Before Aaron Taylor-Johnson pulled on his lycra and kicked ass with Hit-Girl, he turned in a cracking performance as a young John Lennon, nowhere-boy-lennon_1513287calongside legend-in-her-own-right Kristin Scott Thomas. The film focuses on his teenage years – from 1955-1960 – and begins with a day visit to Blackpool with his mother, Julia, which kick-starts Lennon’s love for rock ‘n’ roll. The rest, as they say, is history. Watch Taylor-Johnson’s thoughts on the film.

So there’s my somewhat epic list. Hopefully there’s some gems in there you haven’t seen, or would like to revisit. I have to say, writing this piece has obviously got me excited about Vegas, but also proud to be British. Some great stuff has come out of Blackpool and, whilst it’s not as glamorous or exotic, I for one will hold my head high on that particular stag do. Viva Blackpool indeed.

Clooney and Lake Como – the lacklustre American

George ClooneyFor this post I’d like to review a film I watched recently that’s been on DVD for a little while, The American, starring George Clooney. Nothing new you might say, but I like to think my take on it is fresh, or at least personal to me, so here goes.

Question: you’re an up and coming director (Anton Corbijn), how do you get a A-list actor to appear in your film? Answer: show him the script (where not a great deal happens) and explain the film takes place a stone’s throw from his Italian home at Lake Como. Seal the deal by introducing him to the actress he’ll be opposite for much of the film, the achingly beautiful Violante Placido. Then you’re in business!

Ok, maybe I am being a little cynical. I am sure the fact the film was set in Italy didn’t influence Clooney one bit. That said, the sort of minimalist, gritty, European feel to the film was a good way to set the tone. It was a sort of brooding, reflective version of a Bourne film, i.e. an assassin type laying low trying to figure out who is trying to kill him, versus assassin type running around Europe trying to get his memory back, whilst trying to figure out who is trying to kill him.

The AmericanMake no mistake, I am not saying The American compares to the Bourne films in any way, other than a similarity in terms of setting the scene and the European feel. It also shares similar DNA with Hanna, the Joe Wright directed piece that was a sort of modern version of Leon. Actually, come to think of it, a lot of films have followed where Bourne has led, in terms of European setting with short, sharp Krav-maga esque fight sequences. Taken, with Liam Neeson is another example. Although I am moving off the point here, back to The American.

Did Clooney convince as an assassin who had lost his edge? I would say on occasion. Maybe he was let down by the script. In general, just not much happened, it was all fairly slow paced. Maybe that was the idea.  Keep it slow and sleepy then hit the audience with bursts of action, like Clooney chasing an assassin who has caught up with him on a moped – you cannot get more Italian than that!

I suppose, even for a film where an assassin was meant to be in hiding/laying low, most of us want to see more ruthless, assassin type behaviour. The aforementioned scene with the moped chase was short but sweet in that respect. Clooney chasing a hitman who has failed to whack him, shooting out his tyres forcing him to crash, then throttling him. It was quite bad-ass and reminded me of a scene in Out of Sight, where he has to prove he can handle himself in prison, smacking Don Cheadle’s heavy enforcer in the face with a book. ClooneySimilarly, Dusk till Dawn, one of his breakout films, introduced him with more edge, moving away from any heartthrob ER days, less Ocean’s Eleven smugness, more tattoos up his neck and tough attitude.

So, to sum up, I think The American is worth a watch if you’ve got a spare evening, but it’s not vintage Clooney, and it’s not a vintage assassin film either. Maybe a solid 3 out 5 stars. Watchable, but just not that engaging. If you want shots of pretty, picturesque Italian towns and the super sexy Violante Placido, then it’s worth a viewing!