February 25, 2009

Movie Review: The International

theinternational2_largeAt first glance, The International does not seem like a movie that would, or should, be all that interesting. It is a thriller that pits a rogue Interpol agent and a New York assistant district attorney against an evil European bank. Wow, reading it like that puts it all in perspective! What was I thinking! Actually, I am kidding. It is true that I did not initially find the movie to appear all that interesting, despite the involvement of Clive Owen and Naomi Watts. However, for one reason or another I did find myself sitting in a theater that happened to be showing The International. Not only that, I found myself enjoying it.

When you step back and look at the big picture that The International paints, it is easy to find the entire exercise to be a little ridiculous, rather unbelievable, but frighteningly real. Films like this are interesting in how they take a semi-realistic plot and blowing it up into something its not while retaining that frightening edge that gives you that tickle at the back of your brain: "Is this possible?" As if we aren't growing paranoid enough.

theinternationalpic1As the film opens, we are introduced to Louis Salinger (Clive Owen), an Interpol agent with a questionable past and a vendetta against the International Bank of Business and Credit. This bank is a European based, globally operated mega-bank that seems to be getting into the arms business. It is this questionable aspect of the bank that Salinger is investigating at the behest of New York-based attorney Eleanor Whitman, who is looking to nail the New York branch and bring down the organization.

The screenplay, from Eric Singer (this is his first produced work), is a little talky at times, but does a pretty good job of weaving varying layers of conspiracy and explaining just what is going on while never completely showing his hand. The crux of what the evil bank is doing lies in buying small arms and selling them to those involved in wars in developing nations, not to help anyone win, but control the debt. A world in debt is what the banks like as it can create an immense level of control.

theinternationalpic4Salinger is the center of the action and is a very determined man. Watch as he travels around the globe in the hopes of bringing down the bank. He follows whatever trail he can, money, people, a strong scent. Each step brings him a little closer, but it also slams a couple doors closed as he is funneled down the path the bank wants him to follow. Fortunately, Salinger is unpredictable and is able to continue getting closer.

I am not going to spell it out for you, frankly, I am not sure I could convey all that happens. What I can say is that the all too infrequent action pieces are visually stunning. In particular, there is a shoot out set in the Guggenheim Museum that is visually arresting sequence. Bullets flying, people scrambling, desperate moves by desperate men in order to survive. It had me on the edge of my seat.

The International was directed by Tom Tykwer, a director to keep an eye on. He has a nice visual style that is not too flashy, yet comes from someone with distinct vision. His involvement was one of those elements I was pleased to discover after deciding to see the film. He made a splash in 1998 with the unique thriller Run Lola Run and cemented my enjoyment of his films with Perfume, which is not an action film, but does something that is nearly impossible to do, make an impression with smell through film. It will be interesting to see where he goes from here and hope that he does not get sucked too far down the Hollywood rabbit hole.

Bottomline. As a thriller, this movie succeeds. It moves along at a brisk pace and blinds you with exposition sleight of hand to keep you a little off guard. It does fizzle a bit towards the end, but it is well worth spending some time with, even if only for the Guggenheim sequence.

Mildly Recommended.


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