Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • 15
  • Action, Crime
  • 2009
  • 118 mins

The International

The International

Synopsis

Clive Owen is an Interpol agent determined to bring down a powerful bank embroiled in money-laundering and arms dealing. Naomi Watts co-stars in this globetrotting thriller from the director of Run, Lola, Run, Tom Tykwer

About

Arriving at a time when the world is facing an economic recession and bankers are regarded with disdain, The International looks like a remarkably prescient film. Written by Eric Singer, this story about a corrupt financial institution does not seem as far-fetched in 2009 as it might once have done. However, given that the film was actually ready for release in the comparatively calm summer of 2008 and was then delayed for six months, one has to say those behind The International got lucky.

There's not a great deal that's smart or original about this film. An attempt to replicate the spirit of such classic conspiracy thrillers as The Parallax View (1974) and All The President's Men (1976), this humdrum movie doesn't even have the skill to be properly derivative. This is all the more surprising, considering it starts so well with a scene at Berlin's glorious Hauptbahnhof Station. A colleague of Interpol agent Louis Salinger (Clive Owen) receives some vital information, only to be injected with something by a passer-by, start vomiting, then collapse and die.

After Salinger determines it to be murder, it sets him on the trail of the International Bank of Business and Credit, a Luxembourg-based institution that is a little less friendly than your local building society. Joined by Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts, in a threadbare and thankless role), an assistant district attorney from Manhattan, Salinger becomes obsessed with investigating the bank, which appears to be caught up in all manner of nefarious schemes involving African rebels, nuclear weaponry and arming both the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Directed by Tom Tykwer, The International soon recalls his earlier - and much better - film, Run Lola Run (1998), in that it becomes a relentless chase movie. Yet the faster it moves, the more ridiculous it gets. For example, the film's centrepiece scene: a nerve-shredding shoot-out in the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Salinger arrives at the building, only to be stalked by numerous machine-gun wielding assassins from the bank, all wearing matching uniforms. There are James Bond plots that are more credible.

After this scene, which arrives two thirds of the way through the film, there is little left but for Salinger to skip from country to country (Italy, Turkey - just about any place the filmmakers think colourful) in his quest to corner Jonas Skarssen (Ulrich Thomson), the head of the bank. Strangely, it recalls the way Children Of Men, which also starred Owen, petered out in the final third. At least Tykwer casts well. Both Danish actor Thomson and German Armin Mueller-Stahl (Eastern Promises) as Skarssen's henchman Wilhelm Wexler, lend the film a sheen of European class that eludes most Hollywood stars.

As for Owen, he is solid enough as Salinger, a man who appears to have no private life. At one point, Eleanor tells him to get laid. "You offering?" he quips back. But this is the extent of the humour in an otherwise sombre and serious affair. Despite its tone, the film never really convinces, mainly due to the preposterous plotting and poor characterisation. Bankers may be the men we love to hate right now, but in The International, they are nothing more than convenient cookie-cutter villains.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Naomi Watts, Brian F O'Byrne, Clive Owen, Ulrich Thomsen, Armin-Mueller Stahl
  • Director: Tom Tykwer
  • Writer: Eric Singer
  • Producer: Richard Suckle, Lloyd Phillips, Charles Roven
  • Photographer: Frank Griebe
  • Composer: Johnny Klimek, Tom Tykwer, Reinhold Heil

In a nutshell

After a promising start, The International is an increasingly disappointing experience. Hampered by a weak script which peaks far too early, all that's left in the finale is a steely performance from Clive Owen. Mildly entertaining at best.

by James Mottram

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4

    The Five-Year Engagement

    Jason Segel and Emily Blunt are Tom and Violet, a happy couple whose plans to marry become increasingly hopeless. Co-starring Chris Pratt and a host of sit-com favourites, expect sincerely romantic moments amongst Segel's signature frat boy humour.

    On Film4: 4 Aug 9:00PM

  • Film4

    Maidan

    Documentary portrait of the winter 2013/14 Ukrainian demonstrations in Kiev against the pro-Moscow presidency of Viktor Yanukovych and for a greater integration with Europe.

  • Film4

    The Five-Year Engagement on Film4

    Jason Segel and Emily Blunt are Tom and Violet, a happy couple whose plans to marry become increasingly hopeless. Co-starring Chris Pratt and a host of sit-com favourites, expect sincerely romantic moments amongst Segel's signature frat boy humour.

  • Film4

    The Impossible on Film4

    A true story made with the intimate involvement of the Spanish family, the Alvarez Belons, to whom it happened, The Impossible tells the story of a married couple (Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor) and their three sons, who were holidaying in Thailand when the

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Share