Pros: Believable Special Effects, Interesting Twists, Clive Owen.
Cons: Stretches the limits of believability. Ulrich.
Imagine that an international banking institution (not unlike the International Monetary Fund) that lends money to nations, conceives of an idea that would allow them to control conflicts in developing countries. A bank so sinister that they select the would-be winners before the conflict is even started, in hopes of finding friends in the new government as well as dictating world conflicts and manage debts. After all, when the loser owes you money, how are you going to collect?
Louis Salinger (Clive Owen) works in Lyon, France at InterPol's Headquarters. His job is to coordinate international police intelligence. Nothing more, nothing less. This much I can appreciate. However, Salinger was with a Police Agency prior to his re-assignment to InterPol. From the sound of things, this was a place that Salinger was tucked away to keep him from causing trouble. Yet is seems that this new assignment has put Salinger dead on the trail of an international conspiracy with the IBBC (an international bank) squarely in the middle. Salinger has no authority to conduct investigations, yet he finds himself violating international treaties and protocol's to carry out his personal agenda against the bank. The process takes viewers inside the illegal investigation complete with chase scenes and incredible shoot-outs.
The concept at work in The International is beyond improbable. The idea is simply impossible. The idea of international intrigue with the banking system at the core of political assassinations and insurgencies is certainly a dramatic and intriguing idea. In fact, I would not entirely discount the ability of a major international bank to attempt to affect government policies. Hiring assassins? Probably not. Picking sides in a conflict? Not a good idea...playing the middle would seem more profitable. An InterPol agent engaging in illegal investigations and involved in shooting incidents in foreign countries? He would be recalled immediately (if not prosecuted in the host country...depending on his Diplomatic status). The script in The International contains some great twists, but requires a healthy "willful suspension of disbelief."
Although writer Eric Singer stretched the boundaries of believability with his script, but it was not all bad. The concept itself was excellent. I'm not buying the InterPol angle, but I liked the way the pieces of the investigation were put together. Although simplistic, it was interesting to see the elements of the investigation come together and move more quickly than one might think. As the layers are peeled back, the direction still remains a bit veiled, leaving the ending to unravel in the final ten minutes of the film. The characters were also decent, although more shallow than I prefer. The dialogue was rich. It appeared to me that the dialogue avoided excessive police language that gets overused in television and film, concentrating instead on the subject matter at hand. In other words, the dialogue didn't try too hard to seem legit.
Special mention goes to the special effects in The International. The film contains a visually interesting scene shot inside the Guggenheim Museum. Although unlikely, the special effects were exceptional. There was a scene that watches a baddie fall to his death from a higher tier on the internal ramp of the museum. The video tracks his descent, hitting a lower tier wall and falling onto the ground floor. The scene was seamless and convincing. There were also some shooting special effects, one where Salinger is clipped, that had great visual appeal. Those effects were probably added CGI. Whatever the case, the effects added to the excitement. If nothing else, this film had action and adrenaline...due in large part to exceptional effects.
In terms of performances, I am already a Clive Owen fan. All he has to do is show up to get my vote. As usual, Owen was fun to watch. Naomi Watts countered the intensity of Salinger with a more reasonable attorney from the New York DA's office, Eleanor Whitman. Watts provided balance to Owen's character, who was slightly out of control. Armin Mueller-Stahl entered his appearance as a jaded former Communist who has sold his services to the bank. He is the Chief Intelligence Officer, who finds redemption in crossing paths with Salinger. Mueller-Stahl was great, but I didn't necessarily like all of the qualities assigned to his character. I was less than impressed with Ulrich Thompsen who portrayed the bank president. He wasn't entirely bad...but he failed to convince me.
The International is one of those movies that you watch for enjoyment only. If you start picking apart the incredible, it will destroy the effect. I suspended belief in order to enjoy the great special effects and adrenaline pumping chase. The twists and turns kept the plot interesting, in spite of a few flaws. I didn't care for Ulrich, and some of the elements were so far fetched that I had to notice. Beyond that, this film would be excellent for a rainy day. I would mildly recommend The International with three stars.