Review – The International

Banks gone bad
Review by Vives Anunciacion
Inquirer Libre February 28, 2009
Makati, Philippines

The International
Directed by Tom Tykwer
Possible SPOILERS; watch first, read later.


Here’s the deal: currently there is a global financial crisis resulting, largely, from a flawed US financial system based on credit. The International is a movie that fictionally portrays the largest bank in the world as a manipulative, corrupt organization that keeps third world countries in debt. You, the audience, can either A) see this movie because it is a decently-made, but mostly slow, thriller, or B) keep your money in your pockets, because there’s a financial crisis.


Clive Owen is Interpol agent Loius Salinger investigating the criminal transactions of the International Bank of Business and Credit (IBBC) involving multiple countries and governments. Naomi Watts plays District Attorney Eleanor Whitman who assists Salinger in the investigation, which takes them from Berlin to Milan, Istanbul and New York. 


The movie is largely inert and boring, mainly because the villain is a bank and not a person, so there’s no person to get mad at while the good guys are being hailed by bullets. Also, not too many things happen plot-wise or character-wise in the first half of the film because, as described in the story, the bank is so good at cleaning up its tracks that Salinger et al find little or no evidence, and potential witnesses always end up dead. Salinger ends up doing little, and we don’t care about his past life. In fairness, the little that Salinger does is enough to push the investigation forward.


Its centerpiece action sequence is the best reason to see the film. Returning to New York following a lead in the investigation, Salinger and a handful of NYPD detectives track down the bank’s main assassin and one of the bank’s owners (Armin Mueller-Stahl) inside the white walls of the beautiful Guggenheim Museum. (Spoilers) There is a terrible bloodbath, with a big body count, but the complete destruction of the museum by bullets is the most appalling thing. (Additional) Owen was quite the better action man in the Ritchie-esque 2007 action romp Shoot ‘Em Up – but then that was a comedy, this one wants to be taken seriously.


The International reminded me of political thriller The Interpreter, directed by the legendary Sydney Pollack, in that the Clive Owen-starrer is a faint reminder of the Nicole Kidman-starrer. Both tried to be smart movies, but at least within its premises, The Interpreter was more urgent and involving than The International. Maybe German director Tom Tykwer, despite his stylish Run Lola Run and the erotic drama Perfume, could use some tips from the veterans. Too bad Pollack passed away last year.


Also currently showing, in limited release, is The Reader which recently won Kate Winslet an Oscar for Best Acting. See it for Winslet’s acting. The premise is engaging, the production is elegant, but the narrative is clunky, muddled and sometimes emotionally hijacking.


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