“There’s the difference between truth and fiction. Fiction has to make sense.”
The strength of The International is that it makes sense. So many international-espionnage movies don’t, with plot twists and turns and intrigue and shady characters getting crammed into a big ball of unintelligible mishmash. The International is better than that. Sadly, it’s pretty forgettable, but it works and it’s fun for two hours. Clive Owen and Naomi Watts star in the story of a giant international bank that seeks to dominate the world and own countries through arms deals and assassinations and other nefarious dealings. Now, I don’t doubt that massive international banks do some bad things, but I suspect that they aren’t usually quite this despicable.
The movie starts out as an interesting game of cat-and-mouse, and a mystery that gets slowly revealed through some great scenes and some weak ones (one particularly obnoxious scene involves a constantly moving camera panning around a boardroom scene, which really detracts from the important dialogue). Then, when it’s time to ratchet up the action factor, there is a ridiculous shootout at the Guggenheim museum. (Alfred Hitchcock really liked the showdowns at American landmarks, but I think he would maybe have spun in his grave while this thing was being shot. And all those people were being shot.)
You see, really bad guys always meet at art museums and galleries. And the contract killer here is a really bad guy. Or is he? This is about the only moment in the film that really qualifies as intrigue, and it gets utterly devalued by the hail of bullets that follow. Everything else is pretty…usual. The sources that lead Clive Owen to the real bad guys keep getting killed just before they can tell him what they know. There are assassinations that are carried out by two different snipers, for no discernible reason at all. There are lots of people getting hit by cars. (Although the initial scene of Owen getting smoked by a van’s rearview mirror is a pretty startling and good one.) And there are those people who hand packages to other people who then take them and sneakily pass them off to still more people. It’s a spy movie, after all.
Only there are no spies. Technically. There are prosecutors, and Clive Owen has a shadowy past, and there are international arms dealers and businessmen and banks. But no actual spies. Which is fine. The International is well constructed, it makes sense, and there are some tense scenes that work almost as well as those in better films, like The Interpreter. And possibly, without that ridiculous shootout in the art museum, this movie might have been better. But then, it wouldn’t have had a ridiculous shootout in an art museum.