George Clooney did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Jack in The American.
George Clooney is not one of my favorite actors as you may have been able to decipher from my reviews of all of his Oscar nominated performances. All of four of his performances I felt lacked conviction in terms of trying to portray an actual character, and besides Syriana he relied to much on just his own personality. Then with Syriana he relied to much on his weight gain and one single expression to convey the troubles of his character. Clooney seems like an actor who just can do no right for me, well that is not true, and I believe that his work here actually vindicates by own opinions regarding his other performances, especially since this sort of is almost the exact type of performance he should have given in Syriana.
Clooney plays here an assassin, and thankfully takes a decidedly non Clooney esque route for the character of Jack. From the first scene where Jack kills two potential assassins, and an innocent woman he was with, it is rather clear that this is a very different character for Clooney. Clooney also takes a very different approach here and manages to actually internalize the emotions within Jack, and realizes Jack as a character. Clooney never loses his character here and he always stays with Jack through the film never compromising once for his usual manner he takes with many of his performances. This time there is the conviction in his performance that brings Jack to life as a character, and makes him particularly compelling character at that.
Jack is in many ways much the Jackal so well played by Edward Fox in The Day of the Jackal. Clooney like Fox did in that other film about a meticulous assassination shows very much the attitude that the day to day hit man. Clooney like Fox did portrays the routine effectively, and properly shows the operatives history through the meticlous manner employed. It is quite nice to Clooney actually handle a role with so much subtlety, and for it to honestly pay off as it does here. Clooney is great in the manner that he brings in through his eyes that fierceness one would expect from a killer. He portrays Jack as a man always of the mind. He makes him a man who is always clearly thinking and calculating as the trained killer should.
There is a great difference between Jack and the Jackal though since the Jackal was a soulless man willing to kill anyone to complete the job, Jack actually has a soul. Clooney is very affecting in his portrayal of this man who frankly has just killed too many and seen to many double crosses in his time. In this vein he reminded me of Richard Burton as Alec Leamus in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold particularly by the subtle method in which he expresses the pain Jack is going through. This is probably the least that Clooney has ever spoken in a film, and he handles the often silent role so well. He is great in just the scenes of Jack listening particularly in the presence of a kindly priest. Clooney powerfully shows Jack's regrets simply in his expression as the priest talks about sin.
This is a strong performance from Clooney throughout but he
especially succeeds in the part near the end as Jack sees things closing
around him. One single stunning moment comes in his performance as he believes he once again has to murder someone who has become close to him. The moment is brilliantly played by Clooney as he makes despair mounts as Jack is forced to prepare for the kill. It is a beautiful moment so quietly played and realizes the troublesome condition of this man so effectively. At the end of the film as Jack rejects the mission this could easily be the time for Clooney to drop Jack's nature and go to his old tricks as an actor but he doesn't. He keeps going within this downplayed approach where we really can truly feel the struggle that Jack is facing.
The final moments of his performance are terrific, and Clooney could not play them better frankly. Jack's true feelings finally come out, but Clooney does not reject his portrayal of Jack for these moments. He stays with the character still and succeeds in bringing the poignancy at the end by subtly showing the intensity of Jack's emotions slowly builds as he sees his future slipping away. It is a very moving end to the film, and Clooney delivers. So there, here is a performance by George Clooney honestly gives a very strong portrayal of a character because he goes straight through the film with the character. He carries this film not through his usual method, but by dialing back his own manner and gets to the core of his character.