Hollywood it seems is desperate for new villains. They have exhausted the Germans, the Russians, the Afghans, the Italians, the East Europeans and not necessarily in that order. So what is left? In a post-cold-war world which is marked by increasing fundamentalist movements of all shades, there ostensibly remains only one. That which was a good friend for so long has now turned into a deadly foe. Ladies and Gentlemen welcome to the global Banking system as the Villain.
The International is a thriller which articulates this premise in the first few minutes. Unfortunately, global financial manipulations and a Bank in particular do not a cinematic villain make. One needs to have characters and faces, quirky, hateful faces if possible. Yes, the film has the required blackguards, but none of them strike us as particularly crooked and corrupt, clothed as they are in impeccable suits and polished shoes. Or maybe that is the point; they are just ordinary people like you and I, albeit of a different class. They are people doing a job, like all of us, I guess. From a cinematic viewpoint, this makes them prosaic and lifeless. They remain props, whose role is to fill the frame and nothing else.
The film’s opening sequence is well shot with clever use of editing and sound mixing, but sadly this is not sustained thereafter. The plot unravels as the director jumps from one scenic European location to another and we understand that some kind of global conspiracy is in motion. Clive Owen and Naomi Watts then appear. This heterosexual pairing is quite insipid, no chemistry, no bonding, no nothing between them, possibly again, because they are just “ordinary” people doing a job. Well whatever the reason, thirty minutes into the movie, and one is trying to keep ennui at bay. The only consolations are the locations, which look as if they are just what the James Bond franchise ordered. In the first half the plot starts to get complicated, but the film manages reasonably well. It is in the second half that it flounders.
Tom Tykwer is the chap who helmed Run Lola Run and also Perfume. He is known for his breakneck editing and flashy style, but this film has none of it. There is just one magnificent action sequence set in the Guggenheim museum, which one licks one’s chops over. But it is a classic case of too little, too late. The rest of the film remains sluggish and produces in the viewer an extreme apathy.
Clive Owen looks dazed and confused, Naomi Watts is inanimate throughout, and the rest of the characters flit in and out. The director was possibly trying to bridge the gap between a social comment and an action thriller, and it looks like he really could not make up his mind. At one point, the film looks set to take off into hard core action - Hollywood style, but that does not happen. Instead it just fizzles off into befuddled stupidity. To make it worse, most of the dialogues at important moments seem to consist only of platitudes.
One feels depressed at the pointlessness of it all: the director has talent, he had a topical premise to work with, but the end result is strictly ho-hum.
- meeta, a part of the audience
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An Interpol Investigator along with an assistant District Attorney attempt to expose a powerful Bank and its shady dealings.