Thursday, December 30, 2010

Explaining What Happened in The American

I saw The American last night, a fine assassin movie starring George Clooney (as Jack), who was excellent.  Clara, the prostitute who falls in love with Jack (and he with her), is gorgeous (Violante Placido, the Italian actress who played Clara, is also a singer/songwriter - I'm going to look for her music).

The plot - more particularly, the climax - is complicated.   I'll sketch it out here, and then give my analysis (based on just one viewing of the movie).   Spoilers obviously follow.

Jack, hunted by his would-be assassins, goes to Italy to hide out and take on an assignment from Pavel, his boss.   The assignment entails making a rifle to specifications for Mathilde (played by another beauty, Thekla Reuten).  Shortly before his assignment is completed, Jack makes it clear to Pavel that this will be his last (his affair with Clara has awakened all kinds of feelings).  Pavel calls Mathilde on her way to her concluding meeting with Jack - to pick up the rifle and give him the payment - and Pavel tells Mathilde to "listen very carefully".   At this point, we need to watch very carefully, because this is where the best, complex fun starts.

Mathilde is set to kill Jack after he gives her the gun, but a busload of kids and Jack's alertness prevent that.   Later, Jack and Clara are in a town celebration, and vow to go away together.   Mathilde, who was told by Pavel to find away to kill Jack, after her initial failure, has Jack (and Clara) in the sites of the very rifle Jack designed.   In the climatic scene, she pulls the trigger - but the rifle appears to blow off part of her face, and we also see a gun or some sort of viewing mechanism pointed at her.   Jack gives Clara the money he received from Mathilde, tells Clara to go to their secret place by the water, and runs up the stairs to find Mathilde, dying on the ground.  Which she does.  But then Pavel gets the drop on Jack, who wheels around and kills Pavel.  Jack drives to Clara, but discovers he's been shot, apparently/likely mortally.  He makes it to Clara, and the movie ends.   A powerful 15 minutes of cinema indeed.

But what, exactly, happened?  Here's my take:

Jack built the rifle to explode in Mathilde's face in the first place - but was that his assignment or his own innovation?  Likely his assignment - that is, that's what Pavel wanted (the only reason Jack would want to kill a client was if he wanted to cover his tracks).   Meanwhile, Pavel - when he learned that Jack was definitely leaving the business - instructed Mathilde to kill Jack, expecting that Mathilde would later die on her own mission when the rifle exploded.  When Jack confounded Mathilde's first attempt to kill him, Pavel waited with a gun on Mathilde, as she took aim at Jack with the rifle.   Why was Pavel doing this?  My guess is he couldn't be sure that Mathilde would take the shot, and/or wanted to finish her off in case the exploding rifle didn't get her.  As it was, he got to his revolver on Jack...

A riveting, original plot, reminiscent of some of John le Carré's work.  I'd enjoy seeing a sequel, but Jack probably didn't make it out of the car by the water ...

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book
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