The International

2009-04-24 09:53
 
What it’s about

Interpol Agent Louis Salinger (Clive Owen) and Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts) are determined to bring to justice one of the world's most powerful banks after uncovering illegal activities including money laundering, arms trading, and the destabilisation of governments.

What we thought

Between the Bourne, Bond and Mission:Impossible franchises, is there any space in the movie landscape for another action thriller of international intrigue? Maybe – but The International doesn’t make a strong case for it.

In a world in which alliances between countries change faster than hemlines, it’s no longer politically correct to pit our action heroes against rogue nations. In this double- and triple-crossing spy flick, the baddies are instead the guys controlling the pursestrings in the shadows behind international politics. Clive Owen plays a world-weary Interpol agent, intent on getting to the bottom of a conspiracy between the fictitious financing corporation IBBC and arms manufacturers. He’s helped on his quest by an underutilised Naomi Watts as a New York lawyer in the District Attorney’s office. Beyond that, the plot veers between ludicrous and hazy as we watch them wade through as many cities as can be crammed into the two-hour running time.

Clive Owen brings all the steely determination and dogged persistence that the role demands. Unshaven and crumpled, he’s convincing as a man afire with his mission. He’s difficult to embrace as a sympathetic character, however – if he cracks a smile in this movie, I must have blinked and missed it. Watts is little more than his crutch, and the lack of chemistry between them is a shame. So in this world of suits in shiny buildings trying to out-badass each other, why would you drop your hard-earned dosh on a ticket?

A key reason could be to find out what gifted indie director Tom Tykwer can do when given a Hollywood budget to work with. His hyperkinetic Run Lola Run instantly made him a red-hot property. However, perhaps given too much of a free reign, he’s delivered a film that looks great, but lacks heart.

The main problem with this film is that it deals with money. Not wads of the stuff, blood-stained and crammed into a suitcase – the electronic kind, that flows invisibly between international bank accounts. The result is that it’s impossible to show the plot – it has to be told through convoluted dialogue. In doing so, Tykwer breaks one of the cardinal rules of filmmaking, and the audience is forced to listen carefully to try to keep up. In short, the material is much better suited to a novel than a film.

You can see what he set out to achieve: a thinking-man’s thriller that doesn’t need action setpieces to keep the audience enthralled. However, the effect is undermined by a sequence where Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim is gleefully decimated. The result is what Hollywood calls a ‘tweener’ – straddled between genres, it misses the best elements of each.

As a piece on its own, it’s a decent enough movie. Put next to the Bournes and rebooted Bonds that we know and love, though, The International looks like the poorer – and more boring – cousin.


An Interpol agent attempts to expose a high-profile financial institution's role in an international arms dealing ring.

marius 2009/04/27 6:38 PM
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I went to see it on saturday what a weak movie, acting bad, no action and draging on and on and on and on........
Chili 2009/04/27 9:30 PM
Gee, why see it three times though ...
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