Despite the current economic climate, I have decided to make a concerted attempt to watch a new film in the cinema every week (I’ve bought a Cineworld Unlimited pass, so I can see any film, any time, any where). The idea was to review them regularly on the blog as well, but I haven’t been quite as diligent. So there will be some catching up. Starting now.
It’s appropriate that I mentioned the issue of money when starting this post because The International is a film about an evil bank (isn’t that a tautology?). Clive Owen is an Interpol agent and Naomi Watts is a Manhattan Assistant District Attorney who together are investigating the International Bank of Business and Credit (IBBC – I initially thought this was quite funny, the name playing on that of Auntie Beeb; however, it turns out that the film had some basis in fact, with the real bank being called the Bank of Credit and Commerce International) for money laundering, arms dealing and destabilising governments.
The film plays as a throwback to 1970s conspiracy thrillers, with lots of talking and scenes where powerful companies reveal their ability to falsify evidence and eliminate threats. Owen’s partner is killed in front of him, but he has a hard job persuading authorities that he was poisoned; a police report is casually changed to support the version of events that suit the bank; elaborate plans are constructed for an assassination. It is tense and feels real, representing a story based in reality. The director, Tom Tykwer (famous for Run, Lola, Run), keeps the film grounded visually and shows the various different cities visited (Berlin, Lyon, New York, Istanbul, Milan) in a realistic light rather than a pretty travelogue.
The tense and paranoid atmosphere is exploded with a shoot-out scene in the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan – the architecture is used perfectly for this visceral and exciting scene, which really jolts the nerves and the story in the middle of the scenes of investigation and financial discussions. However, even though it is excellent, it feels out of place in the movie (the rest of the film is low key, until you get a team of professional killers running around the Guggenheim with machine guns in the middle of the day) and it means there’s nothing for the rest of the film to build towards – a film that placed emphasis on reality and a serious tone can’t continue when you have a big action scene in the middle of it.
Owen looks suitably rumpled throughout, although I still don’t get why he is such a big star – I suppose he’s handsome but I can’t get over his flat Coventry accent. Watts is fine but her accent sounds a little forced and I was distracted by the shape of her mouth – it looks like she is constantly unhappy. The script is well constructed but the dialogue didn’t sparkle, although it did have an interesting point about the banks: they don’t just want all your money, it’s about controlling debt, it’s about everyone from the individual to governments being slaves to debt. The film has an appealing allure of intrigue for the first hour, up until the museum shoot-out, and then the film keeps on going to a downbeat ending that you know doesn’t resolve the story or reveal the duplicity of the bank to the world.