Thursday, June 11, 2009

The International: Grade B

The International (2009)
Clive Owen, Naomi Watts. Director Tom Tykwer.

In this thinking-person’s thriller, Owen is an Interpol agent trying to bring down an international bank he believes guilty of money laundering and weapons dealing. The bank is named after the real IBBC bank which collapsed in a cloud of corruption and criminal scandal in the 1980’s. Watts is a NYPD detective pursuing the bank’s New York office, working with Owen on the case. Unfortunately, Watts gives a terrible, flat, non-believable performance that kills any relationship theme between the two of them. This is a mystery in itself because Watts has proven herself a first rate actor in other contexts. She must have had bad direction.

Owen’s Interpol partner is killed as he interviews someone at the bank who will turn state’s evidence, and as Owen pursues clues, everybody ends up dead either just before or just after he talks to them. The point of view is omniscient so the audience knows more about what’s going on than he does, and that puts the burden on us to keep it straight, but after the movie is over, you realize there were a million loose ends. Who killed Calvino, and why? IBBC had no motivation. Why would Calvino’s sons believe Owen’s wild tale? At the time, you think such mysteries will eventually be resolved so you let them go, but in the end they are still hanging out there.

Owen’s performance is quite good, as are several supporting actors, and the overall story is marginally plausible. The film is visually excellent, shot in high contrast blacks, whites, and yellows, and featuring some very fine European architecture and some creative angles. The action highlight is a terrific gun battle inside New York’s Guggenheim. Music is unobtrusive and attractive. It is not a satisfying story, but an entertaining movie.

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