Monday February 16, 2009
Two-Minute Review: The International (2009)
When I first saw a trailer for “The International” it seemed like a thriller for our time: corruption at a bank, money being lost, people getting screwed. Turns out it's a thriller for the exact opposite of our time. It's about an Interpol agent trying to bring down an all-powerful bank at all costs, while in the real world we're busy trying to prop up our weak and hemorrhaging banks. Yes, at all costs.
The movie has some nice moments. We get to travel the world: Berlin, Lyon, Istanbul, Milan. Director Tom Tykwer shoots agent Louis Salinger (Clive Owen) entering, and dwarfed by, these gigantic financial institutions — the way Raoul Walsh filmed Joel McRae against a western backdrop in “Colorado Territory.” The great set-piece is a shoot-‘em-up down the circular floors of the Guggenheim in New York. Armin Mueller-Stahl, playing the inside man with a conscience, gives us his usual solid performance and delivers the film’s best line: “This is the difference between truth and fiction; fiction has to make sense.”
Unfortunately this fiction makes little sense — reflecting its difficult birth and German/Hollywood parentage. It’s too slow to be an action thriller and not cerebral enough to be an intellectual thriller. As implied, its villain (an international bank) is, in our world, on life-support, so as Salinger relentlessly pursues the executives of this bank around the globe, you almost want to reach out a hand and stop him. “Everyone is involved,” Mueller-Stahl warns Owen about the bank. Well, now anyway.