Bouncing from nation to nation, and continent to continent, The International is packed with action, suspense and amazing scenery. Based on the story of an actual bank that funded terrorist activities and involved countless government officials around the world, The International stars Clive Owen (King Arthur, Children of Men) as an Interpol agent determined to bring down a corrupt bank.
The actual bank that abused the world finance market for decades was the Bank of Credit and Commerce International. In The International, the bank is known as the International Bank of Business and Credit; a pretty clever take on the real bank’s name. Clive Owen’s character Louis Salanger has been chasing down the bank’s executives for years, trying to prove their involvement in countless illegal activities. Naomi Watts (The Eye, King Kong) plays an attorney in the New York District Attorney’s Office named Eleanor Whittman, who is also chasing this corrupt bank.
In The International, The International Bank of Business and Credit is involved in all sorts of illegal activity, from arms dealings to debt manipulation and is led by a wicked group of executives played by Armin Mueller-Stahl (The Game, Mission to Mars), Ulrich Thomsen (Kingdom of Heaven) and Patrick Baladi (Last Chance Harvie). Owen chases the bank and its agents throughout London, Milan, Berlin and New York City. The International begins with an example of the bank’s underhanded and deadly operations, as one of the agents trying to investigate the bank is taken out of commission by a hit man with such skill it seems as if he’s a magician. Throughout The International, the intricate inner workings of the bank are revealed and Clive Owen’s search for answers gets more desperate.
The first hour of The International has a very slow pace; the story winds through various European cities and the investigative team is stumped time after time. This can be a challenge, as it takes some effort to get fully engrossed in the story. However, a massive fight scene in Manhattan’s Guggenheim Museum destroys the scenery and brings the pace of the movie from a slow walk to a galloping sprint. The director, Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run), has a very European sense of things. Between the violence, the acting and the wardrobe, The International feels as if you are overseas the entire time. While the pace is absolutely slow to start out, the scene at the Guggenheim is worth the price of admission.
Clive Owen’s portrayal of the loose cannon Louis Salanger is passionate and intense, and considering Naomi Watts chose to phone in most of her performance in The International, Owen’s acting picks up much of the slack. Elder statesman Armin Mueller-Stahl plays the film’s heart, the intense battle between global hyper-capitalism and morality of any kind. One area the film touches on, whether effectively or not is debatable, is how disconnected financial executives can be from the sorrow they cause throughout the planet. In a world where bank collapses happen daily and where bad decisions made in 1999 are ruining people’s lives in 2009, the impact of the banking industry cannot be stressed enough. The International has various lines that explore the power and influence that multi-national financial institutions have over the everyday lives of regular people.
This much is certain, The International is an intense thriller. The violence in The International is overwhelming, although not overdone, and the film is executed like a true European thriller: crisp, clean and smooth.
Overall, The International was a strong film, and while some parts did lag, it was thoroughly entertaining and exciting. Naomi Watts seemed to have her mind on other things, but her character wasn’t significant enough to make a huge impact. Though there was room for improvement, it’s absolutely worth heading to the theater for this film.
Rated R. Runtime 118 min. Theatrical release 2/13/2009.
PR.com Rating: B