Posted on 16 February 2009.
With the banking industry being one of the several causes of our country’s current financial crisis, it can be looked down upon with disdain. News of foreclosures and massive amounts of debt all trace back to the same source. The source and the people behind it are now personified villains in our movies. The International won’t help you help you crawl out your financial positions. It won’t cause your 401(k) to rise back up. It won’t tell you who’s to blame for the recession. It will give you the identifiable notion that banks are evil. Perhaps that’s all you need.
Louis Salinger (Clive Owen), an Interpol agent waits across the street while his partner meets with an individual who may be able to provide them with information they’re seeking. If that sentence sounds a bit vague, just keep reading. The partner is killed before relaying what little information he learned to Louis. What killed him? Unknown. Louis suspects some sort of quick poisoning. However, that’s irrelevant. What matters is he was killed because he was onto something. Louis just needs to go in deeper to uncover exactly what he was onto.
With the help of Manhattan Assistant District Attorney, Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts), Louis investigates the world’s most powerful banking institution, the International Bank of Business and Credit. The IBBC is heavily involved in arms dealing, including providing weapons to both sides of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. As Eleanor and Louis close on the evil corporation, the IBBC disposes of an Italian presidential candidate who could’ve played whistleblower on the bank. Their traces are covered, but Louis’ detective skills honed during his time with the Scotland Yard, lead them to the next set-piece
Hot on the heels of the assassinator, in hopes he leads them toward the holier grail, Louis and his fellow Interpol agents head into the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, where a shootout occurs. Blood, guts, bullets and ears(!) go flying, ripping holes in the structural work of art. The event blows the door of the investigation and it allows them to continue their quest to bring down the global conspirator. The element of danger is forever present, but a great line by the IBBC CEO’s son symbolizes the thought process by both parties: “When there’s no way out. Go further in.”
Director, Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run), is someone I’ve always hoped would come to the U.S. and make a film. Ever since seeing his stylized import about a very red-headed girl trying to quickly raise money for her boyfriend to provide to a loan shark he owes funds to, I’d looked forward to this moment. Tykwer displays such an awe-inspiring kinetic visual element in that previous film, I figured he’d continue to bring the stylistics. Sadly, all of the visual talent he possesses was kept firmly in pocket during The International. The standout scene was the gunfight at the Guggenheim. It distinguished itself by being the one true action scene in a very dialogue-heavy thriller. I expected a better effort from Tykwer, and can only hope his creativity was stifled by the worldwide scope of the film. Hopefully this doesn’t put his Hollywood filmmaking career on hold.
I became a huge fan of Clive Owen after Children of Men and his performance as a lone man thrust into the role of saving the one chance to help humanity continue into the future. His performance is largely similar here. The problem is that his character possesses almost no traits whatsoever aside from the career he possesses. The surrounding material doesn’t give him much of a chance to expand into developing much more than a cop on a mission. Speaking of material not serving an actor, Naomi Watts’ Eleanor Whitman has nothing to do. She’s almost completely superfluous to the story, and I don’t recall her even making an appearance in the third act. It’s a shame the script couldn’t provide justification for these two great actors’ efforts. You have to wonder what persuaded them to sign on in the first place.
The International most reminded me of last year’s Vantage Point and Traitor. They all cover similar international/global threat storylines and fail to make them very captivating. One would think the object of a thriller would be to thrill. Aside from a scene with Salinger and company as they tail the assassinator, and the aforementioned stand-out Guggenheim scene, the film is devoid of thrills. Tykwer deserves as much of the blame as first-time writer Eric Singer. Singer fails to provide much characterization and ultimately doesn’t create situations in which suspense can arise. Tykwer does the script no favors by directing the script as written, which is without flair.
If The International had covered ground I wasn’t already exposed to a couple of times in the past year and/or at least improved upon them, it might have made for an enjoyable time. Instead, I felt the topic derivative and uninspired, outside of a few key moments. The key players in the film’s production did not approach the level of talent they’re capable of, and made for disappointment. This film is one of the cases for acknowledging sometimes you can judge a movie by its trailer. I can only hope the next time the principal players are involved in a project, they make up for this lazy attempt.