Tuesday, March 23, 2021

"THE INTERNATIONAL" (2009) Review

 




"THE INTERNATIONAL" (2009) Review

Twelve years ago, Clive Owen and Naomi Watts starred in a political thriller about an Interpol agent and a Manhattan Assistant District Attorney’s investigation into the illegal activities of a corrupt international bank. Directed by Tom Tykwer, "THE INTERNATIONAL" was inspired by the 1991 Bank of Credit and Commerce International scandal.

Most action or mystery films usually begin with an establishment of the conflict that drives a film's narrative, along with a "call of adventure" for the protagonists. Neither seemed to be the case for "THE INTERNATIONAL". The narrative for this film began with protagonists ex-Scotland Yard officer-turned Interpol detective Louis Salinger and Eleanor Whitman, an Assistant District Attorney from Manhattan, already investigating the International Bank of Business and Credit (IBBC)for a series of financial and political crimes.

The movie actually opened with Salinger observing Thomas Schumer, a colleague of Eleanor's from the D.A. Office, meeting with a potential whistleblower from the IBBC. Following the meeting, an assassin for the IBBC murders both Schumer and the whistleblower. The latter's widow advises Eleanor to meet with an Italian arms manufacturer and prime ministerial candidate named Umberto Calvini in Milan. Both she and Louis discover the true depths of the IBBC's goals before he is eventually assassinated. The pair decide to find Calvini's assassin and turn him in order to dig up more evidence against the bank.

I would not exactly call "THE INTERNATIONAL" the best political thriller I have ever seen. One reviewer had claimed that this movie seemed more like the middle of a trilogy, instead of a stand-alone film. Quite frankly, I can see his point. The movie began with the investigation already in process and ended before law enforcement could move against the IBBC. A montage of newspaper headlines shown during the end credits revealed the bank's fate. And I found that . . . frustrating. I would have preferred if the movie had revealed how Interpol and the Manhattan's D.A. Office finally brought down the IBBC. This vague ending prevented me from harboring a higher regard for the film.

I may not have loved "THE INTERNATIONAL". But I cannot deny that I still managed to enjoy it very much. One of the film's virtues proved to be its subject - namely law enforcement's investigation into a corrupt international bank. There have been a few films that managed to enlighten me on certain subjects - Martin Scorsese's 1995 movie, "CASINO" really opened my eyes on how gambling in casinos operated; and his 2013 film, "THE WOLF OF WALL STREET", had enlightened me on the risks of stock investments. Thanks to Eric Warren Singer's screenplay, it is possible I may have discovered how many banks lure customers to become indebted to them through loans. And Singer's script managed to reveal this through one scene that featured Louis and Eleanor's interview with the Italian arms manufacturer, Umberto Calvini. My latest viewing of "THE INTERNATIONAL" also made me realized that although the story began with Louis and Eleanor already in the middle of their investigation of the IBBC, the meat of the investigation unfolded following Schumer's murder. I also found it interesting how the pair struggled to find one person who could not only provide enough information on the IBBC, but keep that person alive.

Speaking of keeping others alive, one has to remember that "THE INTERNATIONAL" is also an action film. It featured a good number of well directed action sequences - including Schumer and Calvini's murders. I found Louis' encounter with the bank's thugs rather tense. However, I believe the film's best action sequence proved to be the violent gunfight in Manhattan’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. I mean . . . my God! Not only did I find it bloody enough to rival the famous shoot-out in the 1995 movie, "HEAT"; I believe that sequence was one of the best cinematic shoot-outs in Hollywood history. What amazed me about this sequence was how it started on a minor note. Tom Tykwer did a hell of a job directing this sequence.

"THE INTERNATIONAL" also boasted some first-class performances by a solid cast. Although I was not that impressed by Interpol agent Louis Salinger's lack of restraint, I was very impressed by Clive Owen’s passionate portrayal of the relentless agent. Naomi Watts served as the film's backbone, thanks to her intelligent and subtle portrayal of Assistant D.A. Eleanor Whitman. I found Armin Mueller-Stahl’s performance as Wilhelm Wexler, an ex-Stasi agent turned troubleshooter for IBBC, rather intriguing, even if I found the character's sudden desire to help Salinger to take down the IBBC a bit unconvincing. Ulrich Thomsen also gave a subtle performance as the film's main villain, the intelligent and manipulative IBBC chaiman, Jonas Skarssen. The most interesting performance - at least for me - came from Brían F. O'Byrne as the bank's main assassin, The Consultant. "THE INTERNATIONAL" also featured some excellent performances from the likes of Jack McGhee, Felix Solis, Patrick Baladi, Jay Villiers, Luca Barbareschi, Fabrice Scott, Ian Burfield, Remy Auberjonois and especially James Rebhorn.

Despite a slight dissatisfaction with the movie’s ending, I must admit that I found "THE INTERNATIONAL" quite entertaining, thanks to an intriguing and slightly flawed screenplay and a very memorable and well shot action sequence. One can thank director Tom Twyker, screenwriter Eric Warren Singer and a talented cast led by Clive Owen and Naomi Watts.

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