BRIAN F. O’BYRNE
With the world’s financial institutions stuck in a rut, the release of global thriller The International is timely.
The film begins with director Tom Tykwer’s camera fixed on Clive Owen’s face. Rugged yet handsome, Owen has become something of a thinking man’s action hero, combining keen intelligence with a powering masculinity.
Here, he uses his talents to portray relentless Interpol Agent Salinger, who along with Naomi Watts’ Assistant New York District Attorney, is on a quest to bring down a formidable enemy, an international bank which provides funds, weapons, intelligence, and logistics to organised crime and terrorist groups.
Later in the film, Owen shares a conversation with the banks top confidant, played by the always solid Armin-Mueller Stahl. Spoken are the hard realities of the situation: this bank will not crumble to the will of what is right or wrong. Not only does it have too many fingers in too many pies, but it to is also a piece of pastry in the world of globalization: our governments, our institutions, all have a stake in international conglomerates like this bank, and no matter how many heads you can cut off this hydra, two will grow in its place.
Regardless, our crusaders for truth and justice go forth. A sit down with a possible informant results in the death of an agent, adding fuel to Salinger’s already increasing paranoia, as every turn is met with bureaucracy and murder.
Just like any good globalization espionage thriller, (e.g. Bourne Ultimatum), a global backdrop is given, as the film travels from Milan, to New York City, and to Istanbul. Every location is exquisitely shot by Frank Griebe, and –thankfully – Tykwer has spared his audience any shaky cam theatrics.
Usually a problem with conspiracy thrillers is that they often play the same cards; electronic surveillance, assassinations, etc., are all ingrained in the sub-genre. Yet The International takes these worn out elements and adds a twist, while also drawing out the tension until it is as tight as Clive Owen’s brow.
Pacing wise, this is a film which does not blow its load, finely tuning its story until it lets loose with a violent, ear shattering climax in NYC’s famed Guggenheim museum, which under Tykwer’s direction, does not feel out of place. Yet undermining The International’s potential greatness is its length: trims were needed to make it a stronger thriller than the highly satisfactory, yet hardly masterful, film that it is.