German Director Tom Tykwer of the cult classic Run Lola Run brings to the screen a somewhat sophomoric script by Eric Singer in The International. It's a rather mundane look at a mundane profession: banking. While the movie has at least one saving grace, the convoluted plot and erroneous logic drag what could have been a good intrigue movie down into an abyss of cliched archetypes and plot twists that are so foreshadowed that they are no longer twists but just matter-of-fact happenings in the story.
The story begins in Berlin, where a joint investigation between Interpol and the New York City District Attorney’s office goes sour for the two protagonists, Agent Louis Salinger (Clive Owen) and Assistant District Attorney Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts). Salinger is a classic "I-screwed up-before-but-now-I'm-gonna-get-it-right" cop archetype; Whitman is supposed to be the classic "Tough-hitting-lawyer-chick-with-a-heart-of-gold" type.
From there,The International globe trots from Germany to Italy, New York City to Turkey. A conglomerate bank, the International Bank of Business and Credit, has concocted an elaborate scheme: brokering arms deals for the purpose of controlling world-wide war debts. Interpol’s involvement in this is understandable, but the script never really defines why the Assistant D.A. needs to be roving all over the globe as well; I’m not so sure that “International Intrigue 101” is a class offered in most law schools. The corrupt bank conveniently makes problems “disappear”, and there are some points where the audience begins to wonder why the bank didn’t make Salinger and Whitman just as easily “disappear” within the first hour of the movie. Or, why the bank hadn’t taken care of them before the movie even started. (Salinger had already tried taking them down once and failing during his stint at the Scotland Yard.) In fact, there are several plot points that do not follow sound logic that interrupt the film’s credibility as an intelligent conspiracy movie, some of which are glaring. For instance, after a seeming defeat, Whitman cheerily hands over a CIA dossier on one of the top-level bad guys from the IBBC, which is confusing because the point was made that the CIA have been in cahoots with the bank. So how could an ADA get her hands on a CIA dossier that they couldn’t possibly have wanted her to obtain? Maybe that was part of the “International Intrigue 101” class?
Another major problem is that Naomi Watts just doesn’t fit the bill of the tough lawyer chick and seems to flounder about in the role at some points in the movie. She seems too pretty, too refined, too meek. It’s to the point that when her character feels the need to utter a curse word, you expect there to be a classroom of kindergarteners somewhere nearby to slap their hands over their mouths and exclaim, “Oooooo! Ms. Watts said a bad word!”
The film’s climatic action scene occurs in the Guggenheim: an epic gun battle up and down the museum’s iconic spiral ramp. If I had to pick the best reason to watch this movie, this scene would be it; I know that I’ll never go to the Guggenheim again without recalling it.
When you add it all up, you could probably simulate this movie by sitting in on an accounting lecture at your local college, starting a water gun fight in the middle of class, and then sitting back down after 10 minutes to allow the professor to continue in his monotone. This movie falls flat as an action thriller, falls flat as a conspiracy movie, and falls flat as a drama. It’s difficult to take such a mundane subject and turn it into something that makes audience want to sit still for an hour and a half.
There aren't many extras on the disc, but what's included is more than enough for a movie that didn't exactly make heads turn at the box office. The sole deleted scene included is hefty, with an interaction between Salinger and his daughter Samantha (Amy Kwolek) and a little bit of stalking thrown in for good measure.
There is commentary from Singer and Twyker, and Making the International reveals that the story is based on a real bank from the 1980s that was involved with funding criminal activities, and that Twyker wanted to update the story and bring it to present day. The Architecutre of the International has a look at the buildings used as locations, and is pretty much only interesting to architecture buffs.
Of course, the best feature is the Shooting at the Guggenheim, where the construction of the full-scale set for the gun battle is revealed.