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The International
Genre Thriller
 
Review:

The International stars Clive Owen and Naomi Watts and has the austere of an international corporate espionage thriller. Owen plays Louis Salinger, an Interpol agent intent on exposing a banking institution’s involvement in an international arms deal. The film is directed by Tom Tykwer of Perfume: The Story of a Murderer and Heaven. Tykwer is an interesting choice for director as his movies have an intensity and psychology that would strip your average Bond B-movie. The only consistency with this tendency is that the drama outweighs the action sequences. Clive Owen was rumoured to be the next Bond after Pierce Brosnan at one stage, and this film has distinct Bond elements. Although The International doesn’t have the same class in terms of story and entertainment value, and plays in the same vacuum as Hitchcock’s Topaz. The plot is muddled, the conspiracy theories are haphazard and there’s not enough background to give the characters any real sense of depth.

Clive Owen musters a decent performance as Salinger given the circumstances and propels the film on his own. He has to combat poor make-up, some cheesy “destiny” one-liners and a thin character to give this film any sort of momentum. Naomi Watts plays a similar role to Olga Kurylenko, the leading lady in Quantum of Solace: always in contact, but never attached. She plays Eleanor Whitman, whose role is indistinct and seems like an accessory more than anything. The performances are diluted by a wishy-washy story and no clear enemy. At least one is made aware of the common enemy in most Bond films. The International doesn’t have a clear enemy and this element of mystery isn’t emphasised enough to make it work.

Tom Tykwer is trying to create a thinking-man’s Bond in The International, much like Marc Forster’s goal with Quantum of Solace. The result is unsavoury and apart from a brief action blow-out, there’s not much to write about. The story ignores Salinger’s real motivation and he doesn’t have anything to lose, which makes him dangerous - yet disconnected from the audience. The hunt for the second hitman could have been extended into a film on its own, similar to Shooter. However, the formless villain becomes the cloudy international relations and underhand dealings of governments and corporate institutions. The topical themes are red hot, however the story doesn’t make a strong enough connection, making it look like a lame Bond. Tykwer can direct, but he’s more comfortable in the art house than on the shooting range.

The bottom line: Muddled.

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