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In The International, Interpol Agent Louis Salinger and Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Eleanor Whitman are determined to bring to justice one of the world's most powerful banks. Uncovering illegal activities including money laundering, arms trading, and the destabilization of governments, Salinger and Whitman's investigation takes them from Berlin to Milan to New York and to Istanbul. Finding themselves in a high-stakes chase across the globe, their relentless tenacity puts their own lives at risk as the bank will stop at nothing - even murder - to continue financing terror and war. Written by
"The International" is about an evil bank and begs the question; do these fricken things come in any other way? It's a fairly interesting story that got a major boost from current events last September once we learned that banks actually do have shadier dealings than expected. Only the ironic part now is will people be willing or even able to pay to see this movie. My recommendation would be wait for the DVD. Director Tim Tykwer ("Run Lola Run") does a decent directing job and for a while "The International" crackles with suspense but soon the interesting idea posed by the script, by Eric Singer, just fizzles out.
Clive Owen plays Louis Salinger, an Interpol agent whose been trailing the business practices of one of the biggest banks in the world, the IBBC, for what seems like years. Just when he manages to find witnesses, they either end up dead or manipulated into silence. He teams up with Manhattan District Attorney Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts) to bring the bank to justice but she's getting added pressure to shut this whole investigation down because the two are coming up with next to no evidence. The bank's trail of money, used for everything from arms deals to murder, sends Salinger and Whitman globe-trotting from Berlin to Milan to New York to Istanbul but one dead end could shut the case down for good.
I'm usually not very cognizant of camera shots so the fact that i'm saying Tykwer really makes you think about perfect camera movement and angles really says a lot for what he does here. Not only does he start the suspense up early with strong verbal encounters/hard stares between characters but the way he frames and pans along the beautiful design of places like the Guggenheim Museum and the IBBC headquarters or the ancient buildings, narrow, bustling streets, and rooftops of Instanbul is fantastic. Nearly every scene has a lively visual quality. His one mistake actually comes with the movie's one big action sequence. It's a bloody shootout inside the Guggenheim but it just seems messy and hard to make out, a Paul Greengrass imitation without the exciting energy of a "Bourne" movie.
The screenplay by Singer is more than partly to blame. His story starts out well, catching our attention with the bank's deceptive and shady practices and building up a healthy dose of paranoia as well. The problem is the screenplay then lets itself off far too easily. Instead of focusing on how the bank creates slaves-to-debt and how the whole process works, the movie just vaguely and complicatedly brushes over those issues in favor of lazy, generic plotting. Salinger and Whitman soon find that their best option is pinning a murder on IBBC, just you would think a major bank could do better than hiring such an easily track-able killer. And where the movie really goes wrong is the conclusion, which doesn't go into how the bank is actually taken down as much as it just satisfies the audience's need for bloodlust. You can tell that no one knew how to end this thing.
Casting Clive Owen is a good idea. He brings a determined, serious demeanor to Salinger though with the type of roles he has played recently, you wonder why this guy turned down James Bond. He seems like a natural for it. The rest of the cast struggles with poor character development. Naomi Watts gets a role so useless that it could have easily been played by my grandma. Armin Mueller Stahl shows up as a former communist whose lost his way and now works with the bank as a consultant or something. He gets one well written scene, going man-o-e-man-o with Owen but otherwise not that many impressions are made by the cast. Unfortunately for the movie, try as Tykwer and Owen might, it also fails to make much of an impression as well.
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