Last year we saw George Clooney play a man who enjoys being a lone wolf. His character in Up in the Air, Ryan Bingham, spent 320+ days in the air flying from one place to the next working on laying people off, for which he needed to be as dispassionate as possible about not just the damage he was inflicting on others but also his own life, which was filled with as few accouterments and connections as possible. He could move from one place to the next on a moment’s notice, get the job done and be out before the dust cleared.
His character in this week’s new release, The American, seems to bear more than a little resemblance to Bingham. In this movie, though, he plays a contract killer who works on his own much of the time. When he tries to take a vacation from the killing he winds up in a small Italian village where he tries to find some piece, befriending a priest and beginning a love affair with a beautiful woman. But the violence he’s perpetrated all his life follows him to this idyllic location and he finds himself not the hunter but the hunted.
The poster is a wonderfully retro affair with its minimal use of color and other design elements. Clooney is front and center, running toward the camera with gun and in hand and a very stern look on his face. The combination of those two things and the loose suit he’s wearing give the audience the impression that he’s a spy or some other sort of similar operative. And the large woman’s face that forms the background makes it clear there’s a woman involved in the plot who, it can be safely assumed, is going to make life difficult for Clooney’s character.
The trailer is all about making Clooney seem as cool and collected as possible and it works on that front as well as presenting a compelling case for seeing the movie. We start out eavesdropping on a phone call between Clooney and someone else. Clooney wants out of his life, which we later see involves lots of violence, but he’s convinced to take one last job. So it’s off to Italy where we assume he’s stalking his prey but where he also meets not only a couple of beautiful ladies – who likely aren’t what they seem to be -but also an old priest who he strikes up a friendship with. It’s clear there’s danger in the air Clooney navigates around Europe and we see lots of high-power rifles being aimed and then lowered for any number of reasons.
We also get quite a bit of background on Clooney’s character, with his employer stating that he as a long list of enemies, a sequence showing him cleaning his weapon (not a metaphor) while the priest talks about him having the hands of a craftsman and other such hints. All in all it’s an effective trailer that does a good job of showing the movie as being a character study, albeit one with lots of action, sex and intrigue.
A second, much-shorter trailer – it was only 48 seconds long – really boiled the movie down to its essence: Clooney is some sort of high-precision assassin with someone gunning for him, a couple lovely ladies in the mix and a priest who he has an unusual friendship with. It’s awfully short, not much longer than a TV commercial, and so doesn’t break any new ground or really do much of anything that’s interesting other than show off those core three or so main selling points.
The movie’s official website is actually quite a nice production.
The first content section is “The Story” and is where you’ll find a good overview of the movie’s plot and who all the characters are. Information on the people who portray those characters and then those behind the camera can be found under “Cast & Crew.”
There are about 20 stills from the movie, including a few with director Corbijn, in the “Photos” section. “Videos” has both trailers, a handful of TV Spots and some extended clips as well as a featurette.
More information on the movie can be found in “In Depth,” which has some Focus-produced articles that turn the spotlight on Clooney and Corbijn especially. There’s also the “News & Press” blog for the movie that has links to stories about the movie, a blog that confirms what I’ll say later that there wasn’t exactly a ton of press around the movie.
The official site also hosted a blog written by Corbijn that has him sharing updates from the set, talking about working with the actors and other anecdotes. Not surprisingly it features plenty of photos taken by Corbijn, all of which of course look great.
The movie’s Facebook page is pretty good as well, with plenty of updates about the movie’s marketing and other actives, with lots of people commenting that they’re excited about the movie coming out.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
For a movie that has a distinctly artistic feeling it was a little surprising to see a handful of TV spots created. I guess it shouldn’t have been considering Clooney is the star here. The spots present Clooney as some sort of mysterious character who has a troubling secret but the chase scenes seem to be an attempt to give it a Bourne-esque feel for the audience who might be more inclined to see him as an international man of mystery than as a troubled retiring assassin.
Media and Publicity
The movie got a bit of publicity but not the kind that preceded Up in the Air or some of Clooney’s other movies. Some of the bigger stories (outside of those about Clooney’s love life and other personal matters) included a look at just how vastly European the movie’s production truly was (Los Angeles Times, 8/29/10) and then, just before release, the fact that Clooney was awarded the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award (Hollywood Reporter, 7/21/10) for his efforts in that area, including the recent “Hope for Haiti” campaign.
There’s a lot to like about this campaign, mostly in the realm of its efficiency. What I mean by that is that each component of the campaign does a lot without there being a lot. So that one poster really makes an impact that you don’t notice there’s just the one. Likewise with the trailers – you don’t need that second one since the first does a good job of highlighting the major selling points of the movie without overdoing it.
The website is focused not on flash and sizzle but instead on just showing off what it’s going to take to sell the movie. While there may not be a lot of extras there is lots of information about the movie in the form of news stories and other write-ups that add depth to the marketing. So while it’s not the biggest scale of marketing – though there was plenty of TV advertising done in the last couple of weeks prior to release – it does convey its key messages pretty well. All that remains is to see if the right audience was listening.