The Films of Anton Corbijn
The American (December 10/10)
Based on a novel by Martin Booth, The American follows an elite weapons dealer/assassin (George Clooney's Jack) as he arrives in a small Italian village after some trouble on his last job - with the film subsequently (and primarily) detailing Jack's day-to-day activities within his new environment (which includes a tentative romance with a local prostitute and a series of business meetings with a mysterious client). Director Anton Corbijn has infused the proceedings with an almost impossibly deliberate pace that's sure to leave certain viewers checking their watch on an all-too-frequent basis, yet there's little doubt that The American remains oddly compelling even through its more overtly uneventful stretches - with Clooney's expectedly magnetic performance certainly going a long way towards establishing and perpetuating the movie's consistently captivating atmosphere. The initial emphasis on Jack's decidedly mundane endeavors - ie he eats dinner with a priest, he meets with the aforementioned client, etc, etc - proves instrumental in transforming the character into a surprisingly compelling and sympathetic figure, which inevitably does heighten the suspense once the tense and thoroughly engrossing third act rolls around (ie the viewer can't help but actively root for Jack's success). And although Corbijn's refusal to offer up even a kernel of exposition is admittedly a little frustrating - ie who are these Swedes that are after Jack - The American is, in the final analysis, an impressively stirring piece of work that cements Corbijn's place as an up-and-coming filmmaker worth watching.
A Most Wanted Man (October 30/14)
Based on the book by John le Carré, A Most Wanted Man follows German intelligence officer Günther Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman) as he attempts to figure out just what to do about a mysterious Chechen immigrant named Issa (Grigoriy Dobrygin). A Most Wanted Man, like such other le Carré adaptations as The Tailor of Panama and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, has been hard-wired with an impenetrable narrative that holds the viewer at arms length from start to finish, with the convoluted, confusing atmosphere compounded by a total absence of interesting or sympathetic characters. (This is despite an assortment of fantastic performances from folks like Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright, and Willem Dafoe.) It is, as such, not surprising to note that A Most Wanted Man remains hopelessly, utterly uninvolving for the duration of its often interminable running time, with the who-cares-about-any-of-this vibe ensuring that the film only grows more and more exasperating as time slowly progresses. The movie, which generally feels like a filmed play more than anything else, doesn't contain an ounce of genuine tension and it's virtually impossible to figure out just what's at stake here, and there's subsequently little doubt that the big revelations of the film's climactic stretch are hardly able to pack the dramatic, shocking punch that Corbijn has obviously intended. A Most Wanted Man is ultimately a total failure on almost every single level, which is too bad, obviously, given that the movie marks Hoffman's final complete screen performance.