First things first: it seems as though the expectations as to what the film is going to be when one head's into the theater have been led hopelessly astray, due largely to the ad campaign for the film. If one sees the trailer for The American with no other knowledge about the film, they may think that it is going to be a movie in which the hunter become the hunted and that it will be a mile-a-minute thrill ride.
If one knows that this film is by the director of the Ian Curtis biopic, Control, and this video:
then those expectations should be entirely different.
What we get in the end is a nuanced piece that follows an assassin while he is laying low in Italy. We get a glimpse into the day-to-day life of a killer-for-hire trying not to make a ripple after getting personally involved with someone in Sweden only to have the relationship end tragically. It is a simple film that relishes silence, stillness, and the quiet Italian countryside. The dialogue is sparse, the action sparser, and, honestly, the film is refreshing for it.
Anton Corbijn clearly has an eye for the deliberate "thinking man's action film." He builds the suspense by letting the audience's imagination run wild. The lack of action and the gradual building of tension by keeping the camera with the protagonist and experiencing the events that transpire alongside him are what truly make the film work. Taking a page from the book of Hitchcock, he lets the images do the talking. This film could exist without dialogue, and it would still be entirely comprehensible and, more importantly, compelling.
One of the main reasons for this is its star, George Clooney. Clooney commands the screen effortlessly. To his credit, he bathes in the lulls and lets each line breathe, sitting back and letting the silence do its thing.
The American also has some pretty significant nudity, which is great as long as you are not watching the film with your parents. Both Irina Bjorklund and Violante Placido are very pleasing to the eye, and Corbijn's lens is ever-so-kind to both of them.
The nudity is simply a bonus, though, as the movie more than stands on its own merits without it. As long as you go in not expecting the film that it was marketed as, you should be happy.