They took everything from him. Now he’s taking it back.
That is just one of the taglines used to help advertise the movie, American Assassin, which is an adaptation of Vince Flynn’s 2010 novel of the same name. The movie brings Flynn’s characters to life and allows the audience to witness the events that turned college student Mitch Rapp into one of the CIA’s top assassins.
Directed by Michael Cuesta, this action thriller has a run time of just under two hours that effortlessly manages to keep viewers on the edge of their seats throughout its entirety. Rated 18 due to the violent nature of many scenes within the film, American Assassin has been criticised for being another stereotypical spy movie, such as the Jason Bourne movies. However, despite the similarities of having a character recruited into the secret service/CIA and ultimately becoming a well-known and skilled agent, American Assassin creates a new kind of origin tale.
Enter Mitch Rapp: this generations Jason Bourne who is topped with the determination of Liam Neeson’s Bryan Mills in Taken and a whole load of self-taught skills to boot. Portrayed by Dylan O’Brien (known for The Maze Runner and Teen Wolf), Mitch Rapp is a young man who becomes determined to wipe out the terrorists throughout the world after losing his fiancée in an attack whilst on holiday together. This event, which is cleverly shown to the audience through a dream, is the catalyst for Rapp to put himself through an extensive and rigorous training scheme. This allows him to manage his own resources in order to infiltrate and take down the terrorist groups unfortunate enough to be targeted.
While infiltrating the terrorist group that played part to his fiancée’s death, Mitch Rapp is apprehended by the CIA to be psychologically examined. Rapp learns that whilst he has been tracking terrorists, the CIA has been tracking him for recruitment, which is overseen by the CIA’s Deputy Director, Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan). From this point on, Mitch Rapp is able to develop his skills to become the ultimate killer with the reluctant help of former veteran, Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton), who spends the majority of the program attempting to humiliate and push Rapp over the edge with a number of twisted mind games.
The psychological torture that Stan puts Mitch through on-screen makes it difficult to know whether or not Hurley is one that can be trusted. His determination to have Rapp packing his bags and quit the program equally rivals Rapp’s willpower and desire to stay. The constant attempts to put Rapp down coupled with his never-ending criticism of the way in which Rapp works best makes it clear from the very beginning that in one way or another the ex-veteran is out to get the young recruit. However, this ‘tough-love’ form of pushing Rapp turns out to be a somewhat reasonable means of attempting to keep Rapp under control and focused on the tasks at hand especially when the it is revealed to the audience that Rapp is not the first rogue-goer recruit that Hurley has taken under his wing…
It Takes One To Know One. Every good hero needs a villain to complete them and no antagonist is more fitting than one with numerous similarities to the protagonist. Cue “Ghost”, a mysterious character that not even readers of the book would be expecting to be introduced to. This clever twist within the plot makes for an even more compelling story in regard to both the plot itself and the character relationships throughout it. Ghost portrayed by Taylor Kitsch was once in Mitch’s position and has now travelled down a darker path with the aim of building a nuclear device. With the main antagonist of the story holding so many similarities with Rapp’s character, it isn’t impossible to imagine just how easily it would be for Mitch to end up following in the same footsteps. It’s not surprising as to why Hurley was so hard on Rapp—clearly the older man just didn’t want to be responsible for another Agent turned traitor.
Another character relationship which the movie cleverly dives into is that relationship between Hurley and his former recruit, Ghost. Having encountered Mitch Rapp twice now throughout the course of the movie, Ghost seems adamant that he meets the young protegé once again although it’s clear that the next time will not result in Rapp evading death as he so cleverly manages within the film.
In a gruesome and nail-biting scene towards the end of the movie, Hurley is captured and interrogated by Ghost who tortures Hurley for information on the whereabouts of his team. The questions quickly narrowed down to one member of Hurley’s team in particular: Mitch Rapp. With Mitch on his way to the location where Hurley is being kept by Ghost, the cliché hero versus villain fight quickly approaches and the face off between Mitch and Ghost provides the audience with one of the most intense and gritty fights shown on-screen as Mitch attempts to stop Ghost from succeeding in his mission of detonating the nuclear bomb. With the stakes high and time running out, Mitch will have to compile everything that he has learned over the past few months in order to defeat someone who is quite possibly the only match for himself before it is too late…