The International (2009)

The International (2009)
  • Time: 118 min
  • Genre: Action | Crime | Drama
  • Director: Tom Tykwer
  • Cast: Clive Owen, Naomi Watts, Armin Mueller-Stahl


An interpol agent and an attorney are determined to bring one of the world’s most powerful banks to justice. Uncovering money laundering, arms trading, and conspiracy to destabilize world governments, their investigation takes them from Berlin, Milan, New York and Istanbul. Finding themselves in a chase across the globe, their relentless tenacity puts their own lives at risk.


  • The International directed by director Tom Tykwer best known for Run Lola Run (1999), which was an excellent film directs this with the same panache. The plot consists of Interpol agent Louis Sallinger assisting the district court attorney’s office in New York, with one attorney in particularly Eleanor Whitman,(Naomi Watts) leading the case in investigating a bank the IBBC (the International Bank of Business and Credit), which it’s executives and bankers are involved in organised and financial crime. Throughout we see Sallinger and Whitman try and bring the bank down with the assistance of various police officers in countries like Germany,Italy and America. The main strength of this film and the reason to see this is the story, it is very engaging and explores in great content the system of banking and capitalism and how some bankers in a high position of power will use it individualistically and collectively to achieve their own ends. It’s also something of an interest to me considering most films I’ve seen deal with other types of criminals, never bankers, which makes this refreshing. It is also very topical in terms of being relevant to the times of 2009 and still now, with the credit crunch and stories of some bankers becoming receiving vast bonuses, which they didn’t all deserve considering they were part of the reason for the economic instability globally. Another great strength is the script, which has sharp, intelligent dialogue and gives the film a professional tone coinciding with the story.

    The acting is excellent with Clive Owen and Naomi Watts though I was apprehensive about Owen’s dry and deep voice but he still manages to inject emotion into the role. Watts plays a role that is underused and I think has been underrated as she is terrific. Tykwer also directs with superb editing and shots. One thing that did let The International down from being a brilliant film and could have become a classic (hence the eight out of ten rating) is the lack of the external spectacle (action). Looking back at the trailer, though it is short, Tykwer has made the error of showing the few action moments that are in there, which can lead to the audience being deliberately mislead into thinking this is an adrenaline action thriller. The first half hour of the film could have had a bit more pace in terms of some action, but it is still highly watchable. The one action sequence that it does have is a spectacularly choreographed shoot-out at the Guggenheim Museum, which had plenty of suspense and tension with some breathtaking stunts. I think this film is aimed more at a niche audience as it is quite intellectual. Even though I didn’t understand everything about what the bankers were talking about, it was still interesting. Be warned as before this isn’t an action thriller and if you want action it’s best to give this a miss. The International for me though was one of the best effort films of 2009 and is a nearly perfect thriller, which is well worth seeing if you want to engage the mind.

  • A vast disappointment by German filmmaker Tom Tykwer, the director of the innovative visual thriller Run Lola Run (1999), The International exemplifies the apologetic state of action-thrillers today. It seems like producers have worked out a magical formula for box-office success. Hire popular stars and a decent director; everything else does not matter. The result depends on the risk taken. The recent Pierre Morel film, Taken (2009), starring Oscar-nominee Liam Neeson, and written by French hotshot Luc Besson is a bold example of the potential and profitability of such a formula.

    This formula may bring in the dough, but it is a sore point for critics of film. Taken is only a below-average film disguised as a crowd-pleaser. The International may finally buck the trend, and is a lesson to be learnt for over-expecting producers who care less about artistic expression in film than the heavenly sound of cashiers ringing. Tykwer’s latest feature struggles to appeal to viewers, and by word-of-mouth the film is not doing too good as well.

    Starring Clive Owen (Children of Men, Shoot ‘Em Up) and Naomi Watts (21 Grams, King Kong), The International is blessed with two excellent leads capable of lifting any mundane film to something more bearable. The film is generally well-directed by Tykwer, whose specialty in building high-octane set-pieces is not called on here. It is such a waste because the opportunities are there to make The International a breathtaking spectacle. Instead, there is only one standout action set-piece that unfortunately ends without logicality – the bloody shootout in a building made up of spiral walkways.

    The International attempts to deface the banking industry but ends up with eggs in the face (a situation which most financial institutions are familiar with). Debut screenwriter Eric Singer’s work here is unforgivable. There are enough loopholes to rival the number of holes in the bullet-strewn bodies of Bonnie and Clyde. It finally ends in ambiguity after two hours establishing a plot that is far from coherent. In a way, Tykwer does an adequate job cleaning up after the mess created by Singer. But that means he spends less time indulging in creative visuals that he is known for.

    The International lacks the cutting edge to succeed as an original and inventive action-thriller. Tykwer’s involvement could have almost assured that. However, he is working with a lousy script and for producers and distributors whose middle name is greed. Owen and Watts will still draw moviegoers, but the latter will leave the theaters unsatisfied. The International offers better rewards than Taken, but that isn’t saying anything. But I would still pay to watch Tykwer’s film than Renny Harlin’s 12 Rounds (of crap). Now that’s saying something.

    GRADE: D (5/10 or 2 stars)
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