The International

Image for The International

When a fellow agent is murdered, Euro-cop Louis Salinger (Owen) and New York assistant district attorney Eleanor Whitman (Watts) join forces to entrap one of the world’s largest banks. Crossing the globe, they learn the full extent of its corruption.


Don't go believing trailers. The two-minute epileptic blur showcasing Clive Owen’s new film suggests that the Englishman plays an unsmiling Bourne-clone; another of those extramural antiheroes righting wrongs across Europe’s rooftops. Turns out, he is no more than an unkempt Interpol agent determined to get his man, or, indeed, dastardly corporation. The current preoccupation with brooding, muscular Bournes and Bonds stalks this rangy, but unconvincing, detective story. It’s got the schizophrenic twitch of a film trying too hard to be something it’s not.

Owen’s gruff but incorruptible copper is joined by Naomi Watts’ earnest American attorney, both of them crisscrossing Europe to snare an evil bank prone to assassinating those who get too close to its profitable warmongering. German director Tom Tykwer has a good eye for the crisp, metallic sheen of European cities, but a tin ear for dialogue. His unfortunate stars speak only in functional lumps of exposition, their faces unflatteringly set in frowns. There’s no romance, next to no humour, and only the reliable Armin Mueller-Stahl, as the bank’s grimacing fix-it man, escapes the grip of the film’s robotic script. What results is a series of murky interrogation scenes, chivvied along by flourishes of wildly contrived action grafted on from other movies.

One particularly madcap hiccup in New York’s Guggenheim freaks out into a mass brawl where a stream of enemy goons obliterate the Modernist gallery with Uzi-fire like a flashback to the macho unrealities of Schwarzenegger’s heyday. Who’s running this demented HSBC, Dr. Evil? Any sense this is occurring in the real world falls to tatters. Yet, any sense this could be a hyperactive action yarn is stymied by the huff and puff of its worldly plot.

Then, ironically, it is the real world that has struck the hardest blow. It hardly feels fair to blame the screenwriter, who must have been tickled-pink with their account of a modern bank as an untouchable edifice of amoral gain. Who could have foreseen the credit crunch would fatally undermine their drama? Given the current frailty of the banking community, it feels laughable that these dour men in suits are depicted as the devil incarnate, and that it would take such extreme measures to catch them out. Why not just wait for their share price to collapse?

For all its serious intent, Tykwer’s ‘relevant’ thriller proves to be perilously naff.