The International (Movie Review)

The International

I don't deal with banks very often. I don't have a mountain of debts to pay, or endless streams of fine print to make sense of. I don't even have a credit card to worry about. Perhaps it's for this reason alone that The International perplexes me. Whereas in most thrillers of this sort the principle antagonist is a shadowy agency comprised of a corrupt sect of power players, the omnipresent evil in The International is a global private bank; a humble house of bureaucracy that isn't a very malevolent institution by any means, unless of course you're a person in dire straits from the inescapable economic turmoil. So while I don't quite appreciate the real world resonance of the film's adversary, I do appreciate the novel spin it gives to a rather by the numbers presentation.

The International Bank for Business and Credit (IBBC) is the 5th largest private bank in the world, and is also the object of observation from Interpol and various other police agencies. Apparently, the IBBC is involved in some shady business deals with terrorist organizations in unstable third world conflicts. The IBBC positions itself as an arms broker in a bid to control the amount of debt these conflicts create. Interpol is wise to these clandestine criminal transactions, yet justice is constantly impeded due to the tangled mess of international law and the fact that anyone willing to testify either disappears or ends up dead. Clive Owen is a frustrated Interpol agent who has spent the better part of two years trying to bring the IBBC down. Naomi Watts is a Manhattan Assistant District Attorney with similar objectives. They meet through the suspicious death of a mutual colleague investigating the IBBC, and conduct their own borderline illegitimate investigation.

For a film that spends so much effort trying to implicate the IBBC, it's rather amazing how poorly characterized the villain is. While admittedly it's somewhat difficult to antagonize a faceless mega-corporation, it doesn't excuse most of the film's reasoning from being exaggerated conjecture. Assassinating political figures and murdering defective allies isn't very humanitarian, but these crimes pale in comparison to the magnitude of the other misdeeds the IBBC is accused of, mainly war profiteering. Yet all the audience is given by way of evidence is flimsy exposition that never effectively convinces the audience of the supposedly evil organization's complicity. Failure to illustrate the IBBC as a reprehensible evil might be a narrative choice designed to evoke some sort of moral introspection on the audience's behalf, but a poor script is a far more likely culprit.

Clive Owen also appears to be one of the many actors who suffers from typecasting

The International is largely an intellectual thriller, or at least that's what it aspires to be, so the insertion of CSI style forensic investigation and a very Die Hard-esque firefight strikes me as rather curious. When an Italian presidential candidate is assassinated at a public assembly, our two heroes inspect the scene. Owen and Watts turn into Grissom and Willows for the next twenty minutes or so analyzing footprints, bullet holes, and speculating as to exactly what happened. While the tonal shift does pique interest, its inclusion is wholly unnecessary, as is the firefight in the latter half of the film where Owen and two detectives tail the suspected assassin to the Guggenheim museum in New York where an excellent grandiose action scene breaks out that's not unlike anything McClane or Bond might stumble into. While these scenes in themselves are not bad by any stretch of the imagination, it's hard not to feel that they found their way into the wrong movie.

By and large, The International is so entangled in the accoutrements of a wide array of styles that no clear and concise film is able to emerge. Enjoyable elements mingle with some rather bland moments, which is par for the course for most middling movies. The root problem is simply that these elements don't belong to the same film, which speaks of trying to work Lego, K'Nex, and Meccano into the same structure.

good review, to be honest i did not plain to see it but now I 100% plain not to see it.


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