One great scene and Clive Owen almost save “The International”
A little action goes a long way in the thriller “The International,” a handsome, well-shot film of conspiracy and intrigue that, despite featuring a terrific cast, never quite achieves anything deeper than what appears on its chilly surface.
Star Clive Owen as Interpol agent Louis Salinger is his normal, wonderfully intense and disheleved self. But the normally dependable Naomi Watts, playing more of a sidekick role as an assistant NYC district attorney, seems out of place. Plausibility strains as the two civil service employees try to bring down the powerful International Bank for Business and Credit (IBBC), which maliciously orchestrates arms deals in order to control third world debt.
Naturally, the cadre of villains at the top of the IBBC will assassinate anyone in order to accomplish its goals, and one would think that a film that highlights corruption in the world of high finance would have an easy time soliciting a supportive audience. But while director Tom Tykwer has a keen eye for the precision necessary to create a taut thriller, the many non-action moments are only of the TV weekly series quality.
Its ambitions are more cerebral than most movies of this genre-a worthy goal, no doubt-but there’s a chilliness to the proceedings that prevents us from caring much about the main characters. We are given very little information about Salinger’s background or personal life besides that he was transferred from Scotland Yard for botching a case, and his need for redemption (or at least his desire to avoid a similar mishap) appears to be his sole motivation.
Plot threads abound, as do the locales, with globe-trotting from Berlin to Milan to New York and Istanbul-all shot with perfectly acceptable stylistic panache. Along the way, Louis tracks down a steely hitman (Brian F. O’Byrne) who could provide a link to those at the top of the IBBC. Veteran actor Armin Mueller-Stahl plays an ex-Stasi colonel who assists the nefarious organization and can make even the most contrived platitudes ring with intensity. (“Sometimes man can meet his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.”)
There is one saving grace to the unfulfilled expectations of a film that has many good elements: an exquisitely staged shootout at the Guggenheim Museum. How this elaborate scene is executed, using either the actual location or a stage, is almost as amazing as the amount of glass that is shattered, shot and blown to smithereens in what are easily the film’s most memorable fourteen minutes.
It’s not that “The International” needed more action scenes per se, but a bigger dose of personality.
Rated R [See Full Rating] for some sequences of violence and language.