DIR: Tom Tykwer • WRI: Eric Singer • PRO: Henning Molfenter, Lloyd Phillips, Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Charlie Woebcken, Gloria Fan, Christoph Fisser • DOP: Frank Griebe • ED: Mathilde Bonnefoy • DES: Uli Hanisch • CAST: Clive Owen, Naomi Watts, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Brian F. O’Byrne
A huge international bank, the IBBC, is becoming the monopoly in arms-dealing, money laundering and is fast becoming friends with organised criminals and national dictators the world over. Enter the stubborn and stone-faced Interpol agent Louis Salinger (Clive Owen) and accomplice Manhattan Assistant D.A. Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts), who try to bring the corporation to justice.
The duo globetrots from Luxembourg to Lyon, Manhattan to Milan, with their ideals strapped close to their puffed-out chests, eager for honesty and integrity. This is made all the more difficult when pitted against the local police authorities of each city, who are under the control of the bank.
However many cobbled streets, piazzas and Mediterranean villas the two visit, this is no Bourne or Bond flick, as much as writer Eric Singer may try to force the resemblance. Singer’s debut script falls short, although director Tom Tykwer does what he can with the uneven pace. It is a case of mistaken identity here, with The International pining to be Quantum of Solace’s follow-up, whereas the attention would have been better placed on the psychological battles hinted at in the last quarter.
Despite this interesting but underdeveloped psychological dilemma, it is the slow, draining climax that is the film’s downfall. The 118 minutes wear thin towards the end, with the shearing truth that the audience has begun to care more about seeing the closing credits than discovering the finale.
Watts, as ever, possesses such depth in her eyes, and Owen is as stern and growling as ever. Neither is weak, but The International just might be a waste of their talent, as we barely see a third dimension to the characters, and as a result the film doesn’t allow much inclusion of the audience either.
However, Tykwer does produce some nice shots, the Guggenheim’s spiralling building modelled to great effect for a particular stand-off and Istanbul’s sun-glazed roof shingles the setting for another visually rousing scene.
Credit where it’s due: The International is a lot better than its trailer would imply – the voiceover is simply shocking – but as much as I wanted to like this film I was left feeling out in the cold, looking in at Louis Salinger drinking martinis and having mysterious flashbacks. Imagine his disappointment when he discovers he’s not Mr Bourne.
(Read biog here)
Rated 15A (see for details)
The International is released on 27th February 2009