Movie review: “The International”

The International (2009) is an action thriller set in the high-powered and corrupt world of global finance and politics; it is directed by German film director, Tom Tykwer. You can watch the trailer on Youtube and read a very detailed synopsis of the plot can be found on the Internet Movie Database.

A dour-looking Clive Owen plays an Interpol agent by the name of Louis Salinger, a man who never blinks (scary). He has an obsession with a particular case, involving one of the largest banks in the world. As he explains near the beginning of the movie:

“Two years ago, we began receiving intelligence regarding the International Bank of Business and Credit. Anyone that has ever been in a position to move against this bank has either ended up dead, or disappeared.”

Apparently, the IBBC is not only involved in laundering the money of all the major criminal and terrorist networks in the world, but it also engages in arms trading and in helping rebel armies to overthrow governments, particularly on the African continent. (A thoroughly unpleasant lot, in other words.)

The movie begins in Berlin, where one of Salinger’s colleagues at Interpol is having a secret meeting with an insider informer – both of them are killed by an assassin who has been hired by the IBBC. A very frustrated Salinger returns to his home in Lyons, the headquarters of Interpol.

He makes contact with Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts), who becomes his female sidekick – and love interest. Whitman is approaching the same case from a different angle, in that she is following up on a certain arms deal, in which the IBBC is involved.

She thus joins forces with Salinger, and they fly to Milan, where Umberto Calvini (Luca Barbareschi), a major arms manufacturer with a political agenda, gives them some important information about the IBBC; unfortunately, he too is eliminated before he can reveal even more.

Hot on the trail of his killer, the pair travel to New York, where an absolutely breathtaking shootout takes place in the Guggenheim museum of art. (One of the bonus features on the disk explained in fascinating detail how a lifesize replica of the museum had to be constructed for the movie, because there was no way that an actual shootout could be shot in the real Guggenheim.)

Salinger has a meeting with Wilhelm Wexler (Armin Mueller-Stahl), an ex–Stasi agent turned troubleshooter for the IBBC, in which Wexler agrees to help him, telling him:

“You will have to go outside the system of justice. Because everyone is involved. Everyone.”

The extraordinary rooftops of the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul in Turkey are the setting for the final stand-off between a glowering Salinger and his elusive and ruthless quarry, Jonas Skarssen (Ulrich Thomsen), the Chairman of the IBBC.

I thought it was an excellent, fast-paced action-thriller, and I particularly liked the fact that there weren’t any excessive or unnecessary excessive explosions! I also liked the fact that the romance between Salinger and Whitman was subtly underplayed, so it didn’t distract too much from the primary plot.

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