The International

The International (2009)
★★★ / ★★★★

This film, astutely directed by Tom Tykwer, reminded me so much of “The Interpreter” because it’s realistic when it comes to the complexities of international crime and relations. Clive Owen and Naomi Watts star as an Interpol agent and assistant district attorney, respectively; as the two leads get closer to the truth, their morals are questioned, they gamble their lives and the lives of those they love. Their main goal is to bring down the source of international corruption led by the IBBC. To say that that particular task is incredibly difficult is putting it lightly because bringing down the IBBC means dealing with economists, politians, bankers and terrorists. What I admired about this film is its patience: it’s not afraid to let its characters talk about the technical inner workings of banks to the point where the audiences get utterly lost. Although most people will get frustrated with it because they claim to not know what is going on, I enjoyed it because that’s what makes it real. That issue of not knowing made it that much more suspenseful. Speaking of suspense, the writer, Eric Singer, knows how to effectively build tension. Just when you think everything is going to go wrong, nothing does; when you think everything is going to go right, something goes incredibly wrong. Right from the beginning, the film established its craft and intelligence; I felt like I was watching the best episodes of “Alias.” Right away, it was able to show what some people are willing to do in order to accomplish their endgame. This is one of the first adult movies of 2009 and definitely not for everyone. There are not a lot of action scenes but when those action scenes appear, they are intense and heart-pounding. If one is looking for a typical action film, this is not the one to see. However, if one is looking for an intelligent script, moral and business ambiguities, this gets a high recommendation from me.

7 replies »

  1. I’m probably going to see this one someday, even though I’m instictively skeptical about ‘international thrillers’ for their great risk of ending up as overly clever. But mostly, I’m interesting in seeing how Tom Tykwer would handle a production of this sort. I’ve seen a couple of his earlier films, and I like ‘Run Lola Run’ less for every time I see it, it’s visual artistry and narrative experiments are still entertaining. ‘Heaven’ (starring Cate Blachett, from a script by Krysztof Kieslowski) would something completely different indeed, but it had the nerve to slowly creep upon me.

  2. Definitely see this one in theaters. Yeah, it’s about two hours and it feels somewhat longer than that but it’s really smart, so I’ve forgiven the scenes where it just dragged on and on. I think it could’ve been just as strong if they cut off about 20 minutes. But considering all the crappy movies coming out of theaters here in the US as of right now, this is by far one of the best of 2009. (“Coraline” being my #1 so far. Haha.)

    I’m a fan of “Run Lola Run” but I saw it only once which was about five or six years ago. I remember her running a lot… and then there’s some animated sequences. That’s about it. lol. I haven’t seen “Heaven” and maybe I should look that up. I love Cate in just about everything. =P

  3. I saw it last night, but I say if made much of an impression. The intricacies of the banking business are interesting, but although the plot may be clever, it was not cleverly told (too long). Also, I’m getting a little tired of Clive Owen’s barky gloom. It was nice to see Ulrich Thomsen as the bad guy, though. He’s one of Denmark’s finest actors, even though he didn’t have all that much to work with here.

  4. Yeah, it was a little too long. One of my friends was BORED TO DEATH. She kept complaining about it after. I was like “SHUT UP ALREADY!” (in my head). But she’s the only one that hated it out of the 5 of us so I guess that’s still pretty good. =P

    Aww! I love Clive Owen’s “barkly gloom.” I never get tired of it because I’m lovin’ the intensity. But hey, he might not have it as much in his next film with Julia Roberts called “Duplicity.” I have to watch that over Spring Break.

  5. To me, Owen (barely) came down on the right side of intense in (the massively overrated ‘Closer’), but I was really put off by him in the (ditto) ‘Children of Men’, who had a really interesting premise, but it was so coldly conceived (even though that’s probably the point) it failed to speak to me.

    What do you think of Julia Roberts? While I don’t dislike her that much, I still cannot think of many movies with her I liked (‘Pretty Woman’ was decent, but other than that?). As one of maybe two or three people I know I absolutely loathed ‘Notting Hill’, and ‘Runaway Bride’ was even worse. ‘Erin Brochovich’ went over the top with tear-jerkery, ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’ was too silly for its own good (so was her character), and ‘Ocean’s’ gets old very, very fast. I guess ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’ was okay, though. ‘Confession of a Dangerous Mind’s cool never got to me. And I mean, ‘Stepmom’? ‘Mary Reilly’? ‘Conspiracy Theory’? ‘Michael Collins’? Hell, no. ‘Stepmom’ feels like a Lifetime movie on a bloated budget (there’s one film you never wanna see!), and MR and CT are just plain stupid. MC reeks of the idylized political correctness of Hollywood historical dramas. And finally, ‘Dying Young’? It’s more sentimental than ‘Stepmom’ and ‘Erin Brockovich’ – combined.

    I should note than I generally love watching movies, and that I’m nowhere the grumpy old man the previous paragraph made me seem like:)

  6. “Massively overrated” and “Closer” do not deserve to co-exist in the same sentence. Reading that sent sharp shivers down my spine.

    I love Julia Roberts. She has this certain elegance that I can’t help but admire. I love watching her in interviews because I feel like I’m watching royalty or something.

    How can you hate “Notting Hill”??? You have a cold, cold heart. It’s soooo cute! hahaha

  7. Yeah, I agree on her imminent star quality, and she seems kinda nice, but far too many of her movie choices have been bad (artistically, by no means commercially).

    For me, ‘Notting Hill’ felt like a rather generic romcom, and I’m so damn tired of Hugh Grant reprising his ‘Weddings’ role. And it’s just so incredibly long!

    Still, judging from the compact majority, I’m the one who’s got it wrong. But I’ve seen it three times, and it’s still not growing on me.

    Let me just clarify: I don’t mean ‘Closer’ was a bad movie, not even close. It’s just that I thought it was hyped beyond all proportions. It’s simply not as sharp as I wanted it to be.

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