The International, directed by Tom Tykwer (of Run Lola Run and Perfume fame), certainly lives up to its name, in terms of locale. The film shifts from grungy Berlin to metropolitan New York, via postmodern Luxembourg and gorgeous southern Italy, before culminating in stunning Istanbul. It’s a shame that the rest of the film made less of an impact.
Clive Owen reprises his ‘grumpy reluctant hero’ role as Louis Salinger, an Interpol agent with a maverick attitude to upholding justice. The performance is good, though runs dangerously close to being too one-note, in its moody vendetta premise. His partner in crime (or prevention of it) is Eleanor (Naomi Watts), in an unfortunately pointless role. The plot, which stings of a film that tries just a little too hard to be ‘current’, revolves around the fictional IBBC; think HSBC on a power trip. The bank, and its owner’s (Ulrich Thomsen) forays into third-world conflict are what attracts the attention, along with the death and disappearance of anyone who can endanger them.
In its defence Tykwer does lift the film, memorably in an elaborate and ridiculously entertaining shoot-out, set in New York’s Guggenheim Museum. His modernist flair breaks through the over-talky second act, using cold prism-like building sequences, and a stunning ‘god’s-eye view’, when a crowd scatters like ants.
In conclusion, The International is enjoyable, and the plot unravels nicely enough to keep you entertained. But, for a film that is desperate to be relevant, it comes close to falling flat.