Plot: A dogged Interpol agent (Clive Owen) is convinced that one of the world’s highest profile banking institutions is being used to broker international arms dealing, and launder money related to organized crime.
Review: Midway through THE INTERNATIONAL, I had an epiphany: Tom Tykwer should direct the next Bond film! Between this, and RUN LOLA, RUN, Tykwer’s proved that he’s a real pro when it comes to crafting a solid, kinetic action thriller, and I think he might just be exactly what the increasingly BOURNE- derivative Bond series needs. A director that not only knows how to stage incredible action sequences, and maintain a swift pace- but also (perhaps more importantly), knows when NOT to stage a shoot-out or fight scene.
As far as I’m concerned, the thing that makes THE INTERNATIONAL effective as an action thriller is the distinct lack of carnage up until the one hour mark. Instead of throwing us right into a car chase, like in QUANTUM OF SOLACE, the first hour of this film is devoted to plot and characterization. The storyline, which may have seemed far fetched just a few years ago, seems remarkably timely considering that the U.S is now in the midst of a huge banking crisis.
As our hero, Louis Salinger, Clive Owen once again shows that he’s one of the most dynamic actors in the biz. Now one plays rumpled heroes better than Owen and THE INTERNATIONAL is a perfect fit for his sensibilities. He’s a leading man in the mold of Sean Connery, Richard Burton, Jean Paul Belmondo, & Alain Delon- possessing an effortless cool, while at the same time also seeming human and relatable. I know a lot of people are harping about how Owen should have been Bond, and while he probably would have been great, I think his range is better served in films like this and CHILDREN OF MEN. Here he gets to play a more reluctant, down to earth hero- unlike the super human Bond.
Supporting Owen is the ever reliable Naomi Watts, who actually doesn’t get all that much to do here- other than look worried, or provide some exposition here and there. This is really Owen’s show all the way. Truthfully, the only other actors that made a huge impression on me were Armin Mueller-Stahl, and Brian F. O’Byrne. Stahl plays an old guard Stasi agent, turned company wet-works man. His interrogation scene with Owen is a show stopper, and the two play-off each other brilliantly. O’Byrne plays a hit-man working for the bank, whose small stature, and unassuming manner hide his incredibly deadly skill.
About an hour into the movie, all of the plot threads connect in a fifteen minute, balls to the wall shoot-out set in the Guggenheim museum. This bravura sequence is probably the most well-conceived, brilliantly crafted action scene I’ve seen since the opening parkour chase in CASINO ROYALE, and is a true show-stopper. I especially loved Owen's performance in this sequence, as he doesn't play his character as a total unflappable bad-ass. Rather, he's totally overwhelmed, and frightened throughout. Watch as his hands shake as he fumbles and tries to reload his gun under heavy fire. For my money, between this and SHOOT EM' UP, Owen's proven himself as the best onscreen gunfighter since Chow Yun Fat (it's worth noting John Woo is among the film's executive producers, athough this shoot out is more like HEAT than HARD-BOILED).
It’s also nice that the whole thing IS NOT shot in close-up, with lots of quick cutting a la BOURNE. This is really the only major action sequence in the film, but it’s so incredible that trying to top it would have been ridiculous, so it’s just as well Tykwer goes for a more low-key approach in the final confrontation between Owen, and the main baddie- Ulrich Thomsen, who plays the bank’s CEO. This one action sequence more tah satisfied my appetite for action, and by this point, I was so involved in the story that I really didn't need another action scene.
The technical credits for this film are all first rate- including the fantastic cinematography courtesy of regular Tykwer collaborator Frank Griebe. The film really is beautiful to look at, with lots of stark white on display, particularly at the Guggenheim (although thanks to the R-rating, the white walls don’t stay white long if you catch my drift). Tykwer himself also helped craft the solid, somewhat minimalist musical score with composers Reinhold Heil, & Johnny Klimek.
I really can’t recommend THE INTERNATIONAL highly enough. I hope people will get out and see it this weekend, as it deserves to be a major hit. Hopefully the same audience that made TAKEN a smash will check this out- although you have to wonder why Sony is putting this film out on Valentine’s Day weekend. They should have opened it next week, but hopefully, even if it opens soft, word of mouth will make it a success. It really is a kick ass action flick, and for my money- is better than QUANTUM OF SOLACE.