THE INTERNATIONAL: Action We Can Bank On
THE INTERNATIONAL (suspense drama)
Starring: Clive Owen, Naomi Watts, Armin Mueller-Stahl and Brían F. O'Byrne
Director: Tom Tykwer
Time: 118 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)
PREAMBLE: Ever since he gave the world Run, Lola, Run in 2001, German director Tom Tykwer has gradually made a name for himself as one of the most creative film-makers in the world. After Lola, he followed up with Heaven (with Cate Blanchett and Giovanni Ribisi in 2002), and the controversial Perfume: The Story of a Murderer in 2006.
The latter efforts are nowhere as successful as Run, Lola, Run but they established Tykwer as a director to watch out for. Those who have seen his eye-popper of an ending in Perfume would understand why. I had expected Tykwer to surprise us again with The International - and I was not disappointed.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Written by Eric Warren Singer, The International is inspired by an expose on the Bank of Credit and Commercial Intl., a Pakistan-based institution that specialised in money laundering, arms-dealing and financing Third World warlords from the 1970s to 1991. Here, it is changed to the International Bank for Business and Credit (IBBC), the subject of a worldwide investigation by Interpol agent Louis Salinger (Clive Owen) and New York assistant District Attorney Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts).
When Salinger's colleague suddenly dies of 'heart attack' after a meeting in Berlin, he cries murder and takes it upon himself to bring the culprits to book. Meanwhile, the IBBC, led by Jonas Skarssen (Ulrich Thomsen) and its Mr Fix-it Wilhelm Wexler (Armin Mueller-Stahl), takes down anyone and everyone who is deemed as a threat to it.
HITS AND MISSES: It may be a sign of the times as bankers seem to have taken over from lawyers and politicians as the baddies of the day. Their villainy, however, is disguised, but Salinger's anger and frustration are not. Owen goes through the paces looking tensed and all set to implode. There's no wit or humour as we would expect from Bond 007.
There is no romance either. Naomi Watts (pic, right) is under-employed in the movie, playing an obviously under-developed role, especially when it concerns Eleanour's husband and children and the danger they may be facing.
Only Mueller-Stahl appears to have a great time with his role as the bad guy who is so much more charming and interesting than the good guy! Tykwer's forte here is not in the narrative. It is in the action sequences especially the much-touted shoot-out at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. This well-choreographed series of violence and mayhem is the movie's piece de resistance and the main highlight of this movie. It may even make up for the lame dialogue and lines - and the anticlimactic way Tykwer ends the film.
THE LOWDOWN: It's not Tykwer's best, but it has the kind of action we can bank on.