Saturday, February 14, 2009

The International - REVIEW

Unlike many (relatively) "new" directors, one thing that can be said about Tom Tykwer is that he doesn't get stuck making the same movie over and over again. His first film was the hyper-kinetic visual feast/thriller "Run Lola Run" (1998 - ?), and then there was period drama/horror-thriller "Perfume" (2006). Now, two years after "Perfume", comes a return to the present. "The International" a mostly dialogue driven espionage flick, in addition to being Tykwer's most broadly commercial film, is also his least intriguing, though it's still good solid fun. For some time, Interpol agent Salinger (Clive Owen) and Manhattan DA Whitman (Naomi Watts) have been trying to bring down the International Bank of Business and Commerce (IBBC), based on intelligence that suggested that the bank was involved in deadly underground arms trade. Unfortunately, everyone who has the information or the means to move against the bank "mysteriously" ends up dead. With time running out before their investigation is shut down, Salinger and Whitman have to act quickly and track down the remaining sources of evidence, jumping from New York, to Milan, to Berlin, to Istanbul, before time runs out. Surprisingly, the film actually bears more in common with 2005's "The Interpreter" than with any of the Jason Bourne flicks, in that it relies more on dialogue to build the intrigue instead of a bunch of consecutive action scenes. However, that doesn't stop Tykwer from setting up for a spectacular, albeit slightly ridiculous, gun fight in the rotunda of the Guggenheim Museum, which breaks up the traveling-and-talking bits with a nice bit of blood and bullets. Acting wise, there's nothing special, although Owen and Watts make a good onscreen team (even if Watts' character doesn't feel entirely necessary). There are times that the plot can seem directionless, and sometimes things just seem to happen (who knew that district attorneys were also trained to figure out the angle of fire of a sniper rifle?) without wasting too much time on details. In some ways this might be a good thing, because there are so many names thrown around that you'll want to keep track of them instead of paying attention to police procedure. Though the camera work is well done, Tykwer and company mostly focus on modern buildings of steel and glass, the result being that all of the European visits are indistinguishable (however, this does make the finale in Istanbul stand out more). Of all the technical aspects however, the greatest strength is Tykwer's score; it pulses with energy and menace, and hits all of the right notes in the right places. All in all, "The International" just barely rises above average, and manages to be quite satisfying, if at times too self serious and preposterous.

Grade: B-

Number of 2009 films seen: 3

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