''Sometimes you find your destiny on the road you took to avoid it.''
An Interpol agent attempts to expose a high-profile financial institution's role in an international arms dealing ring.
Clive Owen: Louis Salinger
The plot deals with an agent (Clive Owen) attempting to uncover and possibly prove a bank's involvement in sudden killings as well as arms dealing. The premise itself is good and sufficient enough to be carried through the film's nearly 2 hour runtime. This combined with a mostly solid story give the film an almost Tom Clancy-esquire style. Unfortunately, what keeps the story from being full realized from its potential is how it, along with most of the film seems to drag on to the point of yawns aplenty. Due to the relative slow pacing it can almost become hard to realize there's actually an interesting plot unfolding.
The events of the plot are placed on the shoulders of various characters, with Clive Owen and Naomi Watts carrying the weight of this task. While Watts, as with most of the supporting cast, seems to have on and off performance deliveries Owen really manages to shine as the lead. Most of the film's best lines of dialogue come from Owen and his conversations with other characters, especially Watts. Sadly, these line deliveries aren't too frequent and, as a result (as with the plot), it can become hard to realize the subtlety of some of the dialogue.
There are times, however, that the film manages to shine and show what it'd be like if every scene was handled as well. The one major action scene in the middle of the film is probably one of the better shot and more entertaining action scenes I've seen recently. There are also a few more suspense-oriented scenes that help make things interesting here and there, which also break up the seeming monotony. Unfortunately, these scenes are too few and far between to make much of an impact on the film overall.
Back and forth between Germany, France, Italy, New York and more, The International treats audiences to action and intrigue in some amazing locales. The most impressive sequence takes place in the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan, involving the most unlikely ambush, machine-gun shootout and bloody getaway. The setup for location-hopping and international espionage makes this feel like James Bond, except there isn't quite enough action, the pacing is a little slow, and the first act is reminiscent of a CSI episode. That's not entirely a bad thing - although the film doesn't know what it wants to be, the constant chases, high-speed pursuits and thrill of the hunt is enough to keep things generally amusing.
Protocol, procedure and jurisdiction always get in the way of justice. No one can handle the truth because of the immense responsibilities; stepping out of the boundaries of the law is crucial to success, and no real solutions can ever change the overwhelming corruption that seizes each aspect of every government. This isn't a new premise for Hollywood, and The International isn't relying on huge twists or extreme creativity to separate it from the commonplace action films opening on a regular basis. Audiences aren't likely to get the resolution or confirmation they're looking for by the end of this confused thriller, but as far as anyone should be concerned, the inconclusive toxin results, edited police statements, cover-ups and assassinations are no match for Clive Owen's powerful stare. It's all he ever brings to a gun-toting engagement, and it usually suffices.
All told, The International is a film that shows so many signs of greatness but only occasionally successfully administrates them. If you're interested in the film's plot and how it unfolds you might find a solid watch with The International, but be ready for a rather slow story. This is far from a bad film, yet the well-executed scenes are too few and far between to make it worthy of an honest recommendation. For Tom Tykwer, this a far cry from Perfume and even a brief cameo by Ben Whishaw absently, subtly reminds of this fact, maybe next time Tom...
Jonas Skarssen: What do you want?
Louis Salinger: I want some fucking justice.