Never underestimate the power of smart directing and a strong central performance to keep a movie interesting. Anton Corbijn's The American isn't a film with momentum. It's not rushing anywhere or even setting up a clear destination. It's an austere, contemplative piece that holds tension despite rarely introducing an immediate threat. Corbijn's skilled direction is matched by a thoughtful, quiet performance from George Clooney who plays a character unlike any he's done before. The American is one of the more difficult films this year as it moves slowly, deliberately, and without any hand-holding. But the result is a rewarding picture that's refreshing after a mostly disappointing summer movie season.

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