By portraying bankers as the ultimate villains, the stylish espionage thriller The International gets high marks for timeliness.
It’s a well-made and handsome drama centering on a powerful and corrupt European bank with ties to arms dealers. Clive Owen does a fine job as Louis Salinger, an Interpol agent bent on toppling the bank and exposing its nefarious operations.Though not as action-packed as some thrillers, The International is noteworthy for its unusually scenic and architecturally dazzling locations. A key scene in Istanbul, around a mosque and across rooftops is a highlight. But the most captivating sequence is a lengthy shoot-out at a most unexpected New York cultural institution.
Director Tom Tykwer uses architecture and design in unusual and startling ways, making for a sleek-looking tale. But there are convoluted patches within this complex conspiracy scenario.
Salinger teams with Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts), a Manhattan assistant district attorney. Watts is not given much to do and disappears for the last quarter of the film. The movie’s credibility hinges on Owen’s performance. With his virile good looks and knowing manner he makes the character believable, even if his back story needs more filling in.
Together, Salinger and Whitman uncover the Luxembourg-based bank’s connection to an Italian arms dealer and additional illicit goings-on. The concept of bankers as ruthless evildoers resonates in these days of economic crisis. And rather than hitting the usual world capitals, the plot spins from Berlin, Luxembourg, Milan and Italy’s Lake Garda region to New York and finally Istanbul.
The pace bogs down as the thriller veers toward police procedural turf. The bulk of the action occurs during a 15-minute burst of bullet-riddled activity that is exciting and visually arresting — and bloody.
Tykwer brings some of the visual panache he exhibited in 1998’s adrenaline-fueled Run Lola Run. The dialogue by screenwriter Eric Warren Singer is spotty. There are some great, pithy lines and others whose attempt at profundity ring false. Armin Mueller-Stahl plays a consultant/fixer to the bank who conveys the upper echelon’s orders to a hired assassin. Owen and Mueller-Stahl are enjoyable to watch as they face off. But their scenes together are hampered by occasional speechifying. Each character seems as if he’s trying to one-up the other, by speaking in maxims and quasi-sermonettes. Some dialogue is distinctive and clever: In an early scene, when one of the villains is told to relax, he snarls: “I’m more comfortable tense.”
While not as dynamic as the Bourne films — the gold standard for thrillers —The International is comfortably tense and visually stunning.
Source: USA Today