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</script></div>{/googleAds}The International is a taut and complex conspiracy thriller that, while surprisingly timely and topical - even though it was filmed in 2007, well before the current banking crisis is puzzlingly remote and uninteresting. All the necessary components are present to make a top-notch international spy thriller, but what seems to be missing is someone to hate. Sure, they want us to abhor the banks and institutions that have raped, pillaged and fomented chaos in world markets over the past few decades, but they're all so big, so over our heads we don't understand them, much less hate them. About all we can muster is a feeling of irritation at the hopelessness and desperation, even though the banks will stop at nothing including murder to advance their own interests. Can we really deplore an institution enough to like a movie and therefore root for the good guys? Afraid not. Banks make great bad guys in real life, but aren't tangible enough to be a formidable enemy in a movie.

The InternationalThe film stars Clive Owen as Louis Salinger an Interpol agent driven by the pursuit of justice to take down the most powerful foe imaginable: an international bank with financial and political tentacles that lead back to governments across the globe. At his side is his trusty sidekick Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts), a Manhattan Assistant District Attorney. The trail of corruption, extortion and even murder drags the pair through a lot of exotic locales like Berlin, Lyon, Milan, Moscow, and Istanbul. Director Tom Tykwer (Run, Lola, Run) shot on location in many of the film's actual settings, which lends a nice sense of international flavor and spirit. Their investigation eventually settles on the BCCI bank that is buying and selling weapons not for the direct monetary profits of the sales, but rather to promote and foster conflict from the debt it creates. That's a tough concept to sink out teeth into, but just like everything else in the film, nothing's easy.

Tykwer actually does an admirable job with the film despite its extremely complex and labyrinthine plot. I won't profess to have been able to follow all of the details nor to have always known who was bad and who was good, but even so, Tykwer never lets the subject matter get out of hand. And darned if he wasn't able to keep things moving along swiftly. Certainly the temptation to spend fifteen minutes explaining the inner workings of multi-national weapons dealing and money laundering crossed his mind, but fortunately for the audience, he never yielded. The result is a thriller that's always smart and topical, but unfortunately is just never interesting enough to make us care.

The strength of The International is delivered by its tense storyline, from an original screenplay by Eric Warren Singer, so almost any of today's upper B-list actors could have been plugged into the cast to keep things rolling along smoothly. The characters are just generic police agents and dark-suited bad guys doing what officers and villains do. So surely Owens' presence is merely to fill the bill. Even so, the sheer intensity he brings to an otherwise boringly unconventional character is greatly appreciated. Luckily for us, Owen's Salinger often forgets that the role of an Interpol agent is to simply facilitate and work with local authorities, so when he winds up in a foot chase carrying a handgun through Istanbul's Grand Bazaar, we stir slightly in our seats.

Naomi Watts never approaches anything in the least bit interesting with her Whitman who clumsily accompanies Salinger on his globetrotting jaunts even though we're never really sure why. In fact, Salinger eventually all but implores her to get lost as he begins to realize that playing it by the book isn't going to get the job done. Part of the blame lies with Watts herself as she never really generates any chemistry with Owen, and part goes to Singer's script which never connects Whitman to the plot.

Component Grades
2 stars
3 Stars
DVD Experience
2.5 stars

DVD Details:

Screen Formats: 2.40:1

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish

Language and Sound: Closed Captioned; Language and Sound; English: Dolby True HD; French: Dolby True HD; Portuguese: DTS 5.1 Surround; Spanish: DTS 5.1 Surround

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; deleted scenes; making-of featurette; behind-the-scenes featurette; audio commentary.


Commentary: Feature-length commentary track with director Tom Tykwer and screenwriter Eric Singer.


  • The Making of The International (30:06)
  • Shooting at The Guggenheim (6:32)
  • The Architecture of The International (6:13)
  • The Autostadt (5:04)

Deleted Scenes - Salinger and Whitman - Extended Scene (11:23)

Previews - for The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009), Fired Up! and a red-band spot for The Informers

Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging