The International (2009) Review
The major reasons for my interest in The International are simple.
1) It stars Clive Owen, world class British talent from amazing films like Children of Men and Sin City.
2) The trailer set it up as a standard action, espionage, and international crime film, which made it seem like it had moderate entertainment value.
3) It’s directed by Tom Tykwer, whom I automatically love for directing Run, Lola, Run.
4) It was playing for free on my cable.
After watching it I get the same feeling I do about a lot of films lately: “Meh.” It’s not really bad but it’s not really good either. It definitely kept my attention but there were some issues that kept it from being anything special. I’m feeling like making lists will be beneficial for this review so I’m going to continue with that idea in mind.
Things I liked about the movie:
1) Clive Owen. In his role as a British Interpol agent trying to make a case against the International Bank of Business and Commerce for illegal arms dealing, he is ace. I can’t help thinking now that just looking at his face and thinking of his other amazing action roles carried the entire film.
2) The pacing. The plot moved fairly well from one thing to the next. It was complicated but still relatively easy to follow, and more importantly I felt invested in the characters. Every dead end they hit, I found myself wanting to say “damn,” and it wasn’t because I wanted the movie to be over already.
3) The themes. This movie puts a big question mark next to the idea of capitalism and I tend to enjoy that (i.e. Fight Club, Iron Man). I guess it’s easy to point the finger of blame for the world’s problems at giant corporations and satisfying to see individuals triumph over them, even in some small way. The ending of this film was satisfyingly triumphant without exceeding real world expectations.
4) The dialogue. I could not believe how many quotes to live by there were in this movie. In most action movies they would have come off as cheesy, but Clive Owen seriously delivers. My personal favorite was “sometimes a man can meet his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.” Life lessons.
Things I didn’t like
1) This movie was reshot last minute to be turned into more of an action film, and you can tell. There was one extremely overblown action sequence that took place in the Guggenheim museum in New York. Otherwise it was almost entirely an international espionage political thriller. They should have left it completely that way.
2) Naomi Watts costars as Clive Owen’s partner, and her performance was also great, but she was barely given a chance to act. The typical roles of women in Hollywood films, especially action films, frustrate me and she fills one of the saddest ones perfectly. Without giving away whether her relationship with Clive Owen’s character goes anywhere, I will say that she does virtually nothing important to the plot, and delivers none of the memorable dialogue that Clive Owen and some of the minor characters get to deliver. At one point towards the climax she disappears from the film at a word from Clive, never to return again. What, is the woman too weak to go with you to fight the bad guys? She has a family at home? Don’t guilt trip her, let her help you! Sorry, ranting.
3) I’m disappointed in you, Tom Tykwer. The big studios got a hold of you and made you make what I’m sure is one of the most disappointing films in your career. You can always go back to Germany and make another outstanding, artistic film. Remember that.
I hope you can see from this review that overall the pros outweigh the cons, and if you’re ok with a slightly cliché and genre confused but exciting political thriller, you’ll probably be interested in this film. If not, go watch something else I mentioned in this article. They’re all my favorites.
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