The International

The International


Reviewed by: Adam Micklethwaite

Despite being something of a departure from the high-octane editing and intense visuals of Tom Twyker’s earlier films (such as Run Lola Run and The Princess And The Warrior), The International is nevertheless a taut, intelligent political thriller which builds tension effectively and keeps the viewer guessing throughout.

In terms of subject matter, a story about the financial misdeeds of a major international banking institution, centring around a middle-eastern arms deal and a power-crazed attempt to manipulate Third World debt is certainly well timed, guaranteed as it is to appeal to our inner conspiracy-theorist. Facing up against this economic behemoth is Clive Owen’s persistent Interpol agent, Louis Salinger, who must try to unravel the bank’s intricate web of deceit and double-dealing whilst avoiding the very real danger of assassination at the hands of its hired killers.

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Banal thriller clichés aside (death of Salinger’s colleague and Salinger’s monomaniac obsession with bringing the bank to justice) this is unquestionably a film which resonates with the current socio-economic climate in its examination of a very contemporary evil and it is nice to see that Twyker does have the courage of his convictions when it comes to the dénouement.

Comparisons with Bourne and Bond are inevitable, but Clive Owen’s Louis Salinger has neither the suave sophistication and cocksuredness of 007, nor the invincibility of Jason Bourne; he is designed to be more of an everyman than a super-agent. Owen’s debatable range as a leading actor is never seriously tested here, though he certainly makes a plausible lead and threatens occasionally to display some charisma when confronted with the evil machinations of the bank. Likewise, Naomi Watts as DA Eleanor Whitman is an altogether more plausible and realistic character than any Bond girl or, indeed, the troubled heroines who fall for Jason Bourne, but this has the unfortunate side-effect of making her substantially less engaging than these characters and, ultimately, it feels like her character is a little bit redundant within the framework of the narrative.

No doubt some Twyker fans will feel that this first big studio outing for the director is something of a let down, since it feels quite different from the distinctive features - frenetic pace and striking visuals - of his earlier work. On the other hand, one might say that he deserves at least some credit for refusing to rely on old tricks and should be applauded for an ambitious effort to fuse multiple plots, characters and locations in a complex thriller.

A feature of the film which may not hold up so well under the spotlight is its length. In the post-Bourne landscape, audiences may not respond well to a film which runs at just over two hours with only one major action set-piece - an ambitious and well-plotted shoot-out in the impressively reconstructed Guggenheim museum. That said, the dialogue is generally good enough to maintain intrigue and the intelligent plot-twists and gradual revelations effectively drive the action along, aided by impressive location cinematography in Berlin, Milan, Luxembourg and New York and an edgy bass-driven score, which heightens the suspense.

The International is a timely and well-executed thriller from Twyker, and although it is unlikely to earn him major critical acclaim, it deserves to be recognised as a fine example of the genre, which is both thought-provoking and entertaining.

Reviewed on: 24 Feb 2009
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An Interpol agent and a lawyer try to uncover an international banking scandal.
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Read more The International reviews:

Nick Da Costa ****
Stephen Carty ***

Director: Tom Tykwer

Writer: Eric Singer

Starring: Clive Owen, Naomi Watts, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Ulrich Thomsen, James Rebhorn, Jack McGee, Brian F. O'Byrne, Remy Auberjonois, Patrick Baladi, Takako Haywood

Year: 2009

Runtime: 118 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US, Germany, UK


BIFF 2009

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