Terrorism is always in the news and we’re exposed to the stories, the threats, the propaganda 24/7 thanks to the industry of news. So even though its a mainstay in our lives, the question becomes whether or not the public wants to willingly spend two hours watching a fictional account of such events. It’s tricky when you try to create art by imitating life. Director Michael Cuesta attempts to find a happy medium in American Assassin which is based on a novel by Vince Flynn. Chronologically speaking, this is the first novel of a tough as nails character named Mitch Rapp. Choosing this launching point is probably the smarted decision by CBS Films if they’re hoping for a sustainable franchise.
Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) is enjoying life. He’s in a beautiful sun-drenched setting with the woman of his dreams. He has long term hopes and aspirations which he is looking to take the first step towards today. In an instant, all that Mitch knows and loves is taken from him as his vacation resort is overrun by a group of blood-thirsty terrorists with only one thing on their minds, killing as many innocent people as possible. The events that transpired that day left Rapp with a void that could only be filled temporarily. While he addresses the problem in front of him with tunnel vision precision, there is a much larger picture to be seen. With the help of CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) and under the tough as nails tutelage of Cold War veteran Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton), Rapp looks to hone his skills to become the perfect clandestine killing machine. Oh, did I mention that there’s nukes? Let the crazy begin.
American Assassin is an in your face brutal assault on the senses. From a technical perspective, it’s crisp and precise. From an acting and execution angle, there’s lots to be pleased with as well. From a believably viewpoint, well things get a little muddy. The way some of the larger moments play out, the skeptical part of the brain might want to purse the lips and raise an eyebrow. To that I say just let it go and embrace the action. If a movie is too believable it’ll either be boring or too brutal. You have to pull some punches and you need to add some flair. That’s how all of this works. Michael Keaton is great as a teacher. He’s like old Batman training a young Nightwing, fatherly but firm.
Look out Tom Clancy, your dominance over the military espionage genre just might have a new player, at least in theaters. Vince Flynn’s fictional character, Mitch Rapp is more in line with Clancy’s fictional character John Clark than he is with Jack Ryan, probably the most iconic of the characters, at least that’s the case from a cinematic perspective. John Clark is a cold calculated killer, which is a trait he shares with Rapp. American Assassin does more than enough to present a compelling case to further investigate shadowy life of Rapp.
Fans of a military style, race against time action thriller should quickly get behind this new chapter. It’s refreshing to experience a new story that may not be on mainstream audiences’ radars, assuming that they’re not already fans of the other. The thing that American Assassin did for me is to immediately add it to my “must-read” list of novels. Dylan O’Brien has officially shed his teen cloak for something that will gain him more notoriety. O’Brien has made an a-MAZE-ing run at a grown-up gritty role and it totally works. You can see this briskly paced thriller in theaters now.