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I pretty much had zero expectations for this film. I'd seen an ad or two and it looked conventional at best, clumsy at worst. The previews certainly don't do it justice. It starts smart and mean and doesn't let up. Not everyone will enjoy the unrelenting mood, but I found the picture intense and the rest of the audience in the theater seemed to agree. It helps that Clive Owen is believable as the protagonist and is highly watchable. A lesser actor in the role would have made the film much less effective. Armin Mueller-Stahl also adds credibility and depth. Other supporting actors were, for the most part, strong and gritty. There was probably pressure for a female lead, so in Noami Watts's defense, this is probably part of the reason why the character feels so irrelevant.
I'm happy anytime that a slick international thriller has some brains and isn't completely predictable, so I found the picture highly entertaining, if imperfect. It it flawed? Most certainly. But if you walk into the theater without pretensions, you'll probably be as entertained as I was. And I do think a theater visit is warranted, for the photography mentioned by previous reviewers, if not for the Guggenheim scene alone. I think it's dangerous to trump up a scene too much, because it inevitably leads to disappointment. But having no idea about what was coming... suffice to say, I didn't find the directing anything other than thrilling.
I was persuaded by my brother to see this film. I wanted to see another
one but since he was visiting I agreed with his choice, and was
surprised to find myself liking the film very much. OK, the script
could be a little better, but the direction and acting were very good,
even down to the supporting players such as the actors who portrayed
the two NYC cops who assist the main character, Interpol agent
Sallinger (Clive Owens), once the story moved to NYC. What I
particularly liked was the way the story was told cinematically rather
than through a lot of verbose dialogue. It seemed to me like a Bourne
thriller for adults. No kinetic hand-held camera action, but smooth
visually appealing cinematic exposition the way Hitchcock did it in his
prime. Even the closing credits were used effectively to give a rather
downbeat dénouement to the film.
In short, an entertaining movie that alleviated the February blues.
"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.
I'm a fan of German director Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, The Princess And
The Warrior, Heaven, Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer). The story
seemed like a different direction for him, so this was a must see for
First, the only problem I had with the film is the screenplay, some contrived lines, especially in the third act, stick out. The dialogue really tries to force the theme down the viewers throat. Other than that, everything else was top notch. The way the story is set up and fleshed out was engrossing to me. I like a film that lets the viewer figure it out for themselves. It's got a classic mystery set up, where the viewer is in the shoes of the protagonist, we get to figure it out along with him as he unravels it.
Clive Owen and Naomi Watts were decent, but not really stretching there acting legs here. The cinematography and locations were beautiful, filmed in a neo-noirish blue/grey color palette with lots of wide angle shots of the characters dwarfed by the urban architecture. The shootout was very well done and more realistic and grittier than the usual action set piece.
It actually reminded me of a Michael Mann film.
No complaints at all about this gripping movie. The plot is original
compared to the usual cops versus bad guys trash that often gets pumped
out. The story centers around an international bank that makes its
profits by supplying weapons to combatants in the various conflicts
that cover the planet. Clive Owen is an Interpol guy trying to bring
the bank down. The script is excellent, the acting is very good and the
photography is above par for this kind of film. Excellent direction.
This movie doesn't try too hard, is free of the clichés that often
serve instead of fresh ideas and has a great shoot-out where the
surprises and action keep you on the edge of your seat without trying
to overwhelm with gore and jerky camera work.
Go see it, you'll enjoy it.
The International provides a breath of fresh air to fans of thrillers.
It is a thriller film that rarely comes out of a big studio these days.
It is a film more in style of Hitchcock with the mystery being the
film's guiding force rather than frenetically stitched together action
scenes. The Bourne Trilogy touched base on this type of thing, but
still resorted to a largely conventional plot. While being an enjoyable
and smarter-than-usual series of action movies they were nowhere near
as intricate than their source material, which really dove into some
seriously dark territory plot-wise with things that big budget thriller
films almost never dare to touch.
This film does just that type of thing. It presents, as the villain, an institution that is pervasive in the world and most peoples lives. We deal with it almost everyday and we need to as it holds one of the things that we need everyday - money. From an observer viewpoint on this type of relationship it is easy to see which side has great power over the other and like all power, this one can also be abused. Perhaps this plot can turn people off since they refuse to believe that something that they trust with literally everything they've got, could be so untrustworthy. Or perhaps they've never seen or heard about such a thing before so therefore it can't be true. Either way, it is self-imposed mental limitation which will doom someone to eventually liking only one type of movie and/or story. Movies and stories, at their core, are presenting new ideas and patterns and The International doesn't do that with spectacular action scenes, but with it's fresh plot.
Crooks usually rob banks, but who gets robbed if the bank is the crook? That is the film's central question and the answer provided is also a bit more complex than could be expected. The path the answer doesn't always move at a breakneck pace nor are many of the answers provided fully satisfactory.
In addition to the winding plot the film features a spectacular shootout that results in a world class art museum getting trashed. It's a bit of the old action movie formula that almost never gets old, but overall the movie is an Anti-Formula to the every Hollywood Action Movie Formula. --- 9/10
BsCDb Classification: 13+ --- violence
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Why do I keep questioning the work of Tom Tykwer? True, I didn't know
that The International was his film until way after the marketing
onslaught, but even then I still held a little trepidation, although
much less than when I first saw the trailers looking kind of mediocre.
The guy most definitely has the goods and I'm glad English language
producers are showing the confidence to start handing him big budget
flicks. Much like a Marc Forster, known for small scale story-heavy
movies getting a shot at directing a Bond film, Tykwer has steadily
been building up to this point, helming an action thriller with a
fantastically orchestrated shoot 'em up (no pun intended on the pretty
bad Clive Owen starrer of that name) in the Guggenheim Museum. While I
will admit to not being adverse to seeing him direct another
German-language film in the vein of Lola rennt or a small indie like
the Kieslowski script Heaven, I can't complain about the ones he has
been making with American cash.
On paper, the plot seemed a bit stale. So some international bank is using its power and money to make a run in the small arms trade to control the debt of ninety-nine percent of all warfare in the world. Wow, our money being saved in CDs and savings accounts is going to defense contractors and third world nations to stage coups and create mayhem. Well guess what, our government is probably doing that exact same thing with our tax dollars. Who cares? It's the same old story and really not very intriguing to watch. So, let's just say I was pleasantly surprised to find that the film isn't really about our money or watching wars break out with bank backing. Instead it is the hunt for a source to take the corporation, namely Ulrich Thomsen's bank president Skarssen himself, down and create a sense of justice for the law enforcement and witnesses that have been murdered as a result of taking a stand against them. It is about seeking retribution for humans who sacrificed their lives for what they thought was morally right; and those my friend are stakes I can get behind.
Owen's Louis Salinger is Interpol and Naomi Watts' Eleanor Whitman works for the Manhattan DA's office, and both are hot on the trail of opening their long running case against the IBBC (International Bank of Business and Credit) up. After an agent is assassinated in public without a trace of foul play, Salinger begins to dig deeper and find connections between defense contractors and IBBC brass. This series of uncovering relationships and grudges leads to more deaths as well as more evidence of nefarious activities. Both leading agents find their bosses getting more and more restless, as well as scared about coming close to a truth they themselves don't feel comfortable unearthing, and eventually need to step outside the box to find more. The real chase starts when they identify the assassin being utilized to carry out the bank's more sensitive hits, leading Owen into the Frank Lloyd Wright structure for an adrenaline rush of a sequence involving machineguns, innocent bystanders, unlikely comradery between two people you anticipate being adversaries, and a lot of bullet holes in a setting that wouldn't like the destruction wrought much at all.
What happens will sometimes surprise you throughout. Not everything concludes in a clean-cut way, with loose ends tied or character's arcs never necessarily completed. Instead, what we get is a literal translation of Armin Mueller-Stahl's comment about the difference between truth and fiction"it has to make sense in fiction". Decisions in real life don't always become black and white, but instead lie in the grey areas of right and wrong. We can't live life to perfection, we must make the tough choices to survive and find a semblance of that utopia we seek. Much in that way, the film takes turns that give us a result I think we want from the film, just not in the way we might have thought it would have occurred. But that is okay, if not better, in the long run. An investigation as far-reaching as this one can never be fully accomplished because things will always be getting in the way. People are replaceable and even if you rid a corporation of its superiors, there will always be someone else to take the place.
So, while you do get closure at the conclusion, it is not complete. And I love that aspect. Tykwer takes a Hollywood genre and instills a bit of intelligence, along with scripter Eric Singer, (I don't want to forget about him). Not only that, but the guy gets some nice performances, especially from Owen, Mueller-Stahl, Thomsen, and probably my favorite character, that of the "consultant", Brian F. O'Byrne. Watts is okay, but at times I feel a bit out of place. No matter though, the places themselves make up for that by giving us some spectacular locales. Not one to be shy about showing his home country of Germany, you also get to see a little of France and NYC along with the gorgeous scenery of Istanbul, Turkey. There really isn't much to be disappointed about here. It's an entertainingly told, intelligent tale spanning the world and put on by some great acting. I can't wait to see what Tykwer pulls out of his sleeve next, but I do know I won't be questioning its relevance anymore until the end credits roll.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A world-weary but determined INTERPOL agent (Clive Owen) teams with a
District Attorney from New York City (Naomi Watts) to bring down a
corrupt bank funding arms deals in Tom Tykwer's accidentally timely
globe trotting conspiracy flick, "The International".
My drab one-line plot synopsis in no way prepares you for this film's smartly executed centerpiece, an outlandish and wildly entertaining shoot-out at the Guggenheim Museum that is both a bullet-riddled blood-soaked multi-media homage to Hitchcock and an artistic F-you to all of the mindless "shattered glass" suspense thrillers that have come down the pike in the last twenty years.
Those who have been keeping tabs on director Tom Tykwer's career, from the frenetic originality of "Run Lola Run" to the ungodly weird epic sumptuousness of "Perfume", might mistakenly think he was doing this one just for a paycheck. However, "The International" is far more ambitious than its genre conventions imply. Tykwer and his crew create an engaging and twisty film that combines the thematic elements of our modern CSI-style detective shows with the visual elements of Hitchcock's 1950's vista-vision thrillers. Here Tykwer's vistas are architectural landmarks from around the world that serve as picture-perfect set-pieces and back-drops for the carefully stacked plot and action.
In a modern movie world where thrillers are currently regulated to the pulse-pounding non-stop movement of the Jason Bourne films or the dumbly torturous sentimentality of something like "Taken", it's refreshing to see a film of this ilk built in such a classical way. "The International" begins "in medias res" with one of those clichéd secret meetings gone wrong, then delves into a series of expository scenes that lead to a masterfully staged assassination attempt in Milan that leads to rising action (during which I overheard a viewer behind me proclaim so succinctly that the suspense was killing her) culminating in the aforementioned Guggenheim shoot-em-up that leads to falling action that ends with a roof-top chase over the lively markets of Istanbul.
In its attempt to keep the plot one step ahead of the viewers, and the viewers one step ahead of the characters, the sometimes convoluted screenplay loses its footing and sense of pace. The cast, however, is game to play against this jaw-dropping architectural scenery. No further proof is needed beyond this film to show Clive Owen would've been a superior James Bond. Naomi Watts, whose natural charms and beauty are felonies of their own, is a bit miscast, but she does her best with the role. The revolving door of supporting players is top notch as it goes through the requisite motions. All transmitted through the keen eyes of Tykwer, "The International" crackles with tension and arrives on the world scene as a refreshingly old-fashioned suspense thriller in a post-modern milieu.
The International (2009)
We can't expect every Tom Tykwer film to be as inventive or intense as Run Lola Run or The Princess and the Warrior, and The International feels almost like a breather, an intentional turn at a conventional film. It's an espionage and high stakes international drama with guns and deceit and a pair of very distinctly good good guys played by Clive Owen (brilliantly) and Naomi Watts (unconvincingly...probably just miscast). And overall it's completely enjoyable and slick, well paced, and beautifully filmed, of course.
The plot is one of those sprawling, behind-the-scenes conspiracy, third world, big money scenarios that must have shades of truth, or lots of truth, but gets simplified into a handful of bad guys and a parade of exotic locales (including the inevitable Third World warlord who is an intelligent and willing pawn in the whole game). What I mean is, the plot almost doesn't matter in the details, though it's interesting, and makes you think and worry a little about the world we live in. It's more how the heroes unfold the facts of the plot, against the odds, the clock ticking, that make the movie good. If you liked the Bourne movies (which are as a whole probably faster and more edgy) or Syriana (which is actually kind of similar in feel overall, Clooney substituted for Owen), this will really suit you.
And there is a Tykwer twist now and then, a camera with unusual fluidity, or a scene that gets replayed and rethought. Of course, the hugely complicated shootout in the Guggenheim is a masterpiece of excessive and brilliant kinetic filming. For an amazing short video on the building of the sets for this shoot (yes, it wasn't at the real Gug), go to www.firstshowing.net and type guggenheim tykwer.
In all? The best of it is worth the worst of it. A tightly made and not overly preposterous dip into a well stocked pond.
STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning
** Sunday Night * Monday Morning
As others have stated, the current banking scandals have cast a very grim light on bankers and the banking industry in general, and so The International is, if nothing else, a very timely and relevant thriller that plays on modern fears and frustrations. How it didn't do better at the box office with this in mind (maybe it was the recession? Hah, how ironic would that be, a film failed by the corrupt industry it's trying to expose?) is a mystery, but that it manages to be a genuinely intelligent and absorbing thriller anyway is a credit to it.
We have here a polished effort, slick, stylish and glossy and carried out with an accomplished flair that sets it a cut above some. In the lead role as the intrepid Interpol agent on a deadly trail of murder and corruption, Clive Owen continues to improve as an actor and has fine support, including the likes of Naomi Watts and Armin Mueheller Stall, carrying the story along as it gathers pace. The big down point, though, is that at the expense of this intelligence in the script comes a decidedly dull feeling to the film in parts, with maybe too much talking and too little action, which is counter productive to the riveting attention it's trying to demand. But this does improve towards the end and while there are some flaws, there are certainly more plusses. ***
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