Thursday, February 26, 2009
444 - The International review
“The International” is about a massive bank that ignores laws and commits crimes at will. I’m far from an expert on finance, but I am an avid newsreader, and there’s something familiar about this that I can’t quite put my finger on. Has anything happened over the past year or so that would cause people to doubt any sort of financial institution?
Clive Owen and his five o’clock shadow star as Louis Salinger, an Interpol agent working to bring down an invincible bank based of out Luxembourg. Ah, will Hollywood ever find a villain to pick on other than the Luxembourgians? You’d think that they’d use the Germans or the Russians once in a while.
Salinger (No way I was the only audience member who kept thinking “J.D.”) hops the globe with the help of Manhattan Assistant DA Eleanor Whitman. This character is played by Naomi Watts in a manner that seems to suggest to the three or four young girls that will ever watch this movie that they too can be a lawyer, doctor, astronaut, or star quarterback if they just put their minds to it. Not only that, but they can be beautiful with a good-looking husband and a bunch of kids, too! This belies the fact that her role is limited to following Salinger around and having conversations explaining what just happened in the plot. Girl power.
Directed by Tom Tykwer of “Run, Lola, Run” fame, “The International” is what happens when you combine a D script with B+ filmmakers and an A- budget: it looks nice, is well-acted, yet fails to grab our concern. There’s a lot of gorgeous globe-hopping, secret meetings, bugged conversations, arguing about evidence, and political assassinations, but even though the film tells us that the bank is evil and does rotten things, there are precious few moments where we care. Owen’s a fine actor with a wider range than most give him credit for, but he can’t turn water into wine, nor can he turn a one-dimensional function of the script into a memorable, sympathetic character.
There’s a strange bright spot when Salinger tracks a suspect to The Guggenheim Museum in New York, where for the first time in the film exciting stuff begins as machinegun fire erupts throughout the spiraling structure. It’s a gripping, electrifying sequence that reflects a cinematic verve I greatly admire; someone saw the museum, thought about how great a huge shootout would like inside of it, and before long it’s the very memorable centerpiece event of an otherwise forgettable and dull thriller. “That movie where Clive Owen has a shootout in the fancy museum,” will be its place in cinema, which I suppose is better than “that movie De Niro did for the money” or “that political commercial that won a bunch of Oscars.”
At one point, Salinger is interrogating one of the bank’s higher ups (Armin Mueller-Stahl), who wisely remarks “the difference between truth and fiction is that fiction has to make sense.” This isn’t something the filmmakers should have wanted the audience to know and consider.
Posted by James at 2/26/2009 05:16:00 PM