The International

Suits Make for Better Mobility in Chase Sequences

The International

Starring: Clive Owen, Naomi Watts

By Robert Patrick

In recent memory, I cannot remember a time when more people wanted to openly launch torches at banks in the United States. Director Tom Tykwer, in handing out kerosene to the masses with the strategy of an expert rebel rouser, creates a world rife with even more deceit, greed, and malevolence than it currently has in our present age. If you found yourself stewing in contempt over the economic ineptitude of large business, imagine if your bank, already in the throes of irritating you, began purchasing large stockpiles of weaponry with your savings – you know, the one you built up from working at Carrows for ten years – to gain monetary advantages over third world countries. In screenwriter Eric Singer’s world, capitalism is ugly, maniacal, and has good accuracy with machineguns.

An Interpol agent, Louis Salinger (Clive Owen), begins to investigate the abysmal banking crisis with help of Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts). The unwavering duo, stopping at nothing to strip the cloak from the world’s most crooked bank, skulk around the globe, creating mass havoc, while attempting to stop the business and their seedy operations.

As always, Owen, hair frayed and coat jacket mildly unkempt, trots around in high fashion. We watch the leading man act devilishly suave, improbably agile, and dangerously proficient with his marksmanship. And, as with every movie the English star is in, he gets punched, lacerated, bludgeoned in the side of the face. Whether this is a prerequisite for Owen to contractually agree to his film projects is unknown. Nevertheless, fans of the actor will enjoy his man-in-peril shtick to the fullest degree in The International.

Owen’s co-star, the usually fantastic Naomi Watts, should get a Razzie for worst actress of the young year. In fact, if at all possible, Owen should be the one that plunks the award off her head for ruining a potentially great picture. The Aussie actress, known for her kinetic work in 21 Grams and Mulholland Drive, looks perpetually confused for the duration of the film. If someone ever evaluates this movie frame by frame – which is unlikely – I guarantee they will find at least one shot with someone in the background holding up cue cards for the unmotivated Watts. There will be future projects where the actress will perform noticeably better, but this credit should be crosshatched from her resume with the help of a bold-tipped Sharpie.

The villains of the bank are played by actors who think they are in a James Bond movie. Overly theatrical and tyrannically sinister, there isn’t a dubious conversation in these people’s lives. Do banking monarchs go home, stroke cats, and practice speaking in evil, monotone dialects? I should think so, from this film.

Many of the characters in The International are verbose intellectuals, making every scene a climactic, episodic adventure of dry wit – this quickly gets old. Because of the innumerable floodgates of conversation in Tykwer’s film, the pacing gets a tad bit sloppy in places. Lucky for us, when the film gets jacked up on adrenaline, it becomes a highball of bullets and broken glass. I don’t think I’ve ever seen more bad guys wielding Uzis since the original Die Hard. And if you’re not a fan of the Guggenheim, man do I have an action sequence for you; they do everything to that place short of sending a wrecking ball through it.

Since The International delivers with inventive action sequences, supremely crafted camerawork, and a decent performance from Clive Owen, there is no way to pan the film, despite its varied misfortunes. For one to truly enjoy Tykwer’s film, you may have to do some self-editing, but the experience is otherwise worth the price of admission – just make sure to block Watts from your field of vision with a tub of popcorn and a pack of Muddy Bears.


Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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