Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: The American - Recommended

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Kevin EK, Jan 2, 2011.

  1. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer

    May 9, 2003
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    Studio: Universal/Focus Features

    Year: 2010

    Length:  1 hr 45 mins

    Genre:  Drama/Suspense

    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

    BD Resolution: 1080p

    BD Video Codec: VC-1 (@ an average 30 mbps)

    Color/B&W: Color


    English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (@ an average 3.0 mbps)

    English DVS 2.0

    French DTS 5.1

    Spanish DTS 5.1

    Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

    Film Rating: R (Violence, Sexual Content, Nudity)

    Release Date: December 28, 2010

    Starring:  George Clooney, Violante Placido, Thekla Reuten, Paolo Bonacelli                                                                              

    Based on the novel “A Very Private Gentleman” by Martin Booth

    Screenplay by:  Rowan Joffe

    Directed by: Anton Corbijn

    Film Rating:    3/5

    The American is, ironically, a European film in every way aside from its choice of lead actor.  A quiet and methodical tale, the film slowly accompanies Jack (George Clooney) as he hides out in a small rural town in Italy from Swedish assassins and almost everyone else.  The plot is fairly simple – Jack is an assassin who clearly has tired of the business and longs to get out, and yet, he is clearly skilled in this area.  The idea of the career criminal taking one last job is one we’ve seen many, many times, but the flavor of this film, coupled with Clooney’s quiet intensity, makes this a compelling experience.  For many scenes, the camera hovers over Clooney’s shoulder as he walks through the town, making every corner he turns a possible ambush that we will not see before he does.  Quiet scenes of people talking or eating (and one demonstration of a silenced rifle) take on a distinctly paranoid edge, akin to what viewers may recall from the final moments of the last episode of The Sopranos, where every minor detail seems to be charged with menace.  It’s not a particularly deep movie, but it works – and it’s more or less consistent within its own rules.  It’s certainly worth a rental at the least, and probably a purchase for Clooney fans.  (It’s not hard to see why Clooney was drawn to the strong-but-silent part – this is effectively his chance to play The Man With No Name, and he clearly relishes doing it.)

    The American has been released on DVD and Blu-ray this past week.  The Blu-ray includes a 1080p VC-1 transfer, an fairly quiet DTS-HD MA sound mix, and a few extras, including a commentary from the director, along with some deleted scenes and a featurette in high definition.  Aside from these features, the Blu-ray includes the usual Blu-ray functionality, including BD-Live and the My Scenes bookmarking function.  Retail Blu-ray copies will also have an insert slip in the package, containing a code for a digital download of the movie.


    The American is presented in a 1080p VC-1 2.35:1 transfer that shows off a beautiful spread of Italian scenery, as well as an opening sequence in stark white Swedish snow.  Details are rich here, including cracks and crevices on every male face, cobblestones on the street, and the spray of greenery when Clooney test fires a rifle into the reeds.  My only quibble here is a slight coloration issue that happens in some interior scenes where Clooney’s steely hair appears almost blue in the light.  I don’t believe that’s completely an intentional effect, as it isn’t the most flattering idea in the world…   I should note that I am watching the film on a 40” Sony XBR2 HDTV. If anyone is watching the film on a larger monitor and is having issues, please post them on this thread.

    AUDIO QUALITY   3 ½/5

    The American is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, along with DTS mixes in French and Spanish.  An English DVS track is also included.  This is a fairly quiet film, but there are occasional places where the surrounds come to life.  The occasional gunfire is surprisingly light on the subwoofer – this is certainly not a major subwoofer mix.  Dialogue and music are clear, mostly aimed into the front channels. 


    The Blu-Ray presentation of The American comes with the usual BD-Live connectivity and My Scenes functionality, along with a commentary, about 15 minutes of bonus features, and the digital copy code.

    Feature Commentary with Director Anton Corbijn – This scene-specific commentary with Anton Corbijn is almost as quiet and precise as the film itself.  It’s not the most exciting talk you’ll hear, but Corbijn does relay a fair amount of production information along the way.  (Among other things, he mentions that the opening sequence was actually shot last so that Clooney could grow out his own beard for it…)  Corbijn details differences between Martin Booth’s original novel and this film, and explains some moments that might feel a bit more ambiguous left on their own.  In some cases, he’s probably saying too much about what’s happening onscreen, but it’s a nice safety net if you’re confused about anything along the way.

    Deleted Scenes (5:34 Total, 1080p) – Several scene extensions are presented in high definition, and are not divided by chapters.  As usual, there’s nothing really earth shattering here – just some additional time with the characters along the way.

    Journey to Redemption: The Making of The American (10:52, 1080p) – This brief featurette succinctly tells you everything you need to know about the making of the film, along with Anton Corbijn’s commentary.  If anything, the film is described by the filmmakers as a modern Western, which may explain some of its stylistic choices (as well as a clever bit featuring some Sergio Leone footage at one point).  The European cast all offer compliments to Clooney, and some on-set footage shows him clowning around between takes.

    BD-Live - The more general BD-Live screen is accessible via the menu, which makes various online materials available, including tickers, trailers and special events. 

    My Scenes - The usual bookmarking feature is included here.

    Digital Copy – An insert in the packaging provides a code for the viewer to download a digital copy of the film.

    The film and the special features are subtitled in English, French and Spanish.  The usual pop-up menu is present, along with a complete chapter menu.   When the disc is first put into the player, the usual BD-Live previews appear, including the general Universal Blu-ray trailer.

    IN THE END...

    The American is a good alternative to the typical action or suspense thriller.  It’s a quiet, contemplative piece, featuring a good performance by George Clooney and a European cast, and it slowly draws the viewer into its paranoid world.  The Blu-ray is graced with fine high definition transfers and a small but effective package of extras.  It’s easy to recommend this one for a rental, but I have a feeling that Clooney’s fans have already purchased it.

    Kevin Koster

    January 2, 2011. 



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