Saturday, December 5, 2009

The International [movie review]

* Released theatrically in February; now on DVD
The International is a film bred from the likes of the Bourne and James Bond series, chock-full of high-minded plot lines, occasional action sequences and international intrigue. This one takes place in the world of high finance, where a European banking behemoth (the IBBC) has gotten heavily involved with arms deals in an effort to control the debt of Middle Eastern and African countries that are entangled in ongoing wars. Interpol agent Louis Salinger (played by Clive Owen) and New York Assistant District Attorney Eleanor Whitman (played by Naomi Watts) are getting dangerously close to exposing the bank, which naturally leads to life threatening problems for them, not to mention interference from their superiors as the IBBC wields its powerful influence as a means of self-preservation. Screenwriter Eric Singer based the story (his first to be turned into a film) on a similar setup used by a Pakistani bank in the 70's and 80's.
Using bankers as villains is obviously very timely and the soulless, well-dressed weasels being transported around in expensive and black shiny cars here don't disappoint. Included in the group is Armin Mueller-Stahl, who has perfected the art of creepy, cold characters in his career.
Owen is exceptional as the worn out, embattled agent with the rumpled wardrobe and scruffy appearance, where beneath the shaky demeanour is a man with absolute purpose in exposing the bank's wrongdoings. Watts, on the other hand, is left with a substantially underwritten role not befitting her talents. She may have second billing and a prominent presence in the movie's marketing campaign, but hers is essentially a supporting role.
Director Tom Twyker has created a spectacular looking movie, using numerous international locales (I counted at least six) and employing frequent use of grand aerial shots in capturing the respective impressive visuals, with a noticeable focus on architectural design. The best action sequence takes place in New York's Guggenheim Museum, where full use is made of its interior design, which was amazingly recreated on a German soundstage.
If you're burnt out on anything related to corrupt financial institutions, or the plot of The International sounds a little dry for your tastes I'd encourage you to still give it a watch - it's a smart, gripping thriller that is worth your time.
Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆