Saturday 28 March 2009

Movie Review: The International (2009)

There is a lot to like about The International, an American - German co-production. For one, the star of the movie, Clive Owen as Interpol Agent Louis Salinger, is made to look progressively more ugly and rumpled as he relentlessly pursues the evil doers at the International Bank of Business and Credit (IBBC). The purposeful degradation of the leading man's looks is a refreshing change, and Owen's ear joins Jack Nicholson's nose (in Chinatown) as a body part sacrificed in the search for truth and justice.

Tom Tykwer's directing, along with the cinematography (Frank Griebe) and editing (Mathilde Bonnefoy) are also commendable. The movie goes out of its way to find fresh, architecturally attractive locales, and succeeds in achieving a sleek and modern yet corporately cold look. The action scenes are edited briskly but never descend to the frantic and disorienting micro-edits that have plagued many recent action films. The prolonged shoot-out at New York's Guggenheim Museum is one of the most satisfying and well-executed action spectacles in recent years.

The International also has a reasonable plot to work with. The IBBC is a shadowy bank interested in gaining power by funding arms deals to various warring factions. Interpol Agent Salinger, helped by Naomi Watts as Eleanor Whitman from the US Justice Department, are eager to shut down IBBC's operations before game-changing missiles are delivered into the wrong hands. To keep prying eyes away, the bank's protective layers include a slimy lawyer, an executive who was a former Stassi agent, and a "consultant" who is handy with a sniper rifle.

The bank is obviously well connected into the international political - military network, and the higher-ups are as eager as the bank to thwart Salinger and Whitman. The chase takes place across Europe, as the bank chief Jonas Skarssen (coldly played by Ulrich Thomsen) tries to close the deal before Salinger and Whitman close the bank.

Underpinning the movie's fictional plot is the true story of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), which was finally forced out of business in 1991. In addition to extremely shadowy operating practices, BCCI was found to have links to the financing of the Abu Nidal extremist group with the involvement of notorious racketeer Marc Rich.

But the plot of The International also suffers from  some large holes, like the Italian weapon manufacturers who suddenly develop a deep moral code, and the quickest bullet trajectory analysis ever conducted, and which completely ignores the fact that one bullet actually struck and killed a target before going through a wall.

But let's not quibble with a well made, modern, entertaining, relevant and well-acted movie that avoids many cliches. After all, when was the last time we saw an international action movie without a car chase scene?

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

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