Reviews

The International

4

Spy spills for the credit crunch era.

If the latest Bond installment left you cold, Tom Tykwer’s unexpectedly electrifying spy thriller offers more than a quantum of solace.

Starring one-time 007 candidate Clive Owen as an Interpol agent pitting his wits against a Luxembourg bank that’s writing cheques for terrorists, The International is a globe-hopping Ipcress File for the credit crunch age.

Things kick off in Berlin, with Louis Salinger (Owen) the powerless witness at the broad-daylight murder of his partner, who has been sniffing around the bank’s dodgy dealings.

Determined to bring the organisation to justice, Salinger joins sides with US District Attorney Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts). Their investigations lead them to an electioneering Italian politico who’s tried to dish the dirt on the bank once before, only to find his chief witness fatally silenced.

It’s moments before he goes the way of silence himself, taken out by a sniper during a rally in Milan. Central European locations with the chill of the Cold War.

Faceless multinational companies who will stop at nothing to conceal their corruption. Hell-bent hero determined that justice can prevail. We’ve all been here many times before.

But in Tykwer’s assured hands, and boasting dazzling photography, The International rises to the top of the espionage pile. True, Owen’s performance teeters on the over-earnest, but his straight-face only makes us take his peril more seriously.

There’s no wisecracking to let us off the hook after the movie’s undoubted highlight, a scorching shoot-’em-up at the Guggenheim in New York, with Salinger getting more than he bargained for after trailing the sniper to the gallery.

And, as the place erupts in a hailstorm of machine-gun fire that lasts longer than is comfortable, it’s as if Michael Mann has stepped behind the camera.

Sam Wigley

Verdict:

Leaving behind the aromatic fantasy of Perfume, Tom Tykwer weighs in with a tense and exhilarating entry into the spy genre. This is an espionage thriller well worth investing in.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • rorschach

      Mar 2nd 2009, 0:01

      4 stars for this is beyond a joke. over 2 hours of Clive Owen walking menacingly towards the camera and one obligatory action set piece just to make sure the audience doesnt nod off before the end. a**e

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    • rorschach

      Mar 2nd 2009, 0:01

      1

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    • totalgoatboy

      Mar 9th 2009, 0:01

      2

      Initially intriguing Tykwer’s film is slowly revealed to be as uneven as it’s hero’s craggy face. From Owen’s paper thin idealist to Watts' flat federal attorney to its’ wannabe sobering real world setting ‘The International’ constantly aims for realism whilst ignoring it's own cues for momentum along the way. The sub-Tony Gilroy script mistakes endless exposition for sassy 'Michael Clayton'-esque slow burn smarts and well mounted city establishers for depth and pacing. After a rudimentary yet competent first hour it critically fails capitalise on an uncharacteristic but damn near faultless and welcome half-time bullet ravaged carve-up. Bystanders and key characters dive and bleed and die in an endless shower of plaster and glass. Heart stopping, rip-snorting and adrenalised this stark Guggenheim bound zinger certainly shakes things up. Even the cast look mighty surprised at the sudden gear change, discharging Uzi pistols instead of spewing overly sincere platitudes and plot points across some interchangeable euro-cops desk. In the aftermath of this jaw dropping, backhander to audience expectation, you’d be forgiven in thinking what has went before is a cleverly constructed lo-fi opener on which to graft a masterful hammer blow of a second half. It hasn’t. Indeed the third act kicks in, dragging the villains from the shadows before promptly stalling by reverting back to a painful pace and pseudo-political-emotional drudgery. It's quite an achievement and probably the first time in thriller history that a key character 'going off the reservation' serves only to slam on the breaks. Promising an unholy sh*t-storm, Owen's increasing unsympathetic and lukewarm Interpol agent, following a stirring mandate merely grinds towards the damp squib finale. A resolution so under whelming it would feel more at home in the last ten minutes of a below average ITV 1 Drama were it not for the admittedly striking location. Four stars Total Film? It's pushing it, had the midpoint schizoid action spike moved things towards a more satisfying slam bang tie-up it might have evened out the tonal rifts. Had it echoed the whip smart action at the film’s centre it might of caused enough misdirection to allow everyone involved to getaway in the narratives over earnest smoke. However, as it is, after the initial murky hook Tykwer sleepwalks us into an ultimately dull and workman like one star thriller here with another, perhaps fittingly, grafted on for that destined to be puzzled over, 'Run Owen Run' midway set piece.

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    • hulk68

      Jul 12th 2009, 13:23

      4

      I loved the movie, its thought provoking and intelligent.

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    • Phoenix81

      Jul 28th 2009, 15:23

      2

      Dull and lifeless (And that's just the acting) - The film had decent ideas, but was for the most part like water (Bland)

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