Review in a Hurry: You know how the U.S. is bogged down in regional wars and everyone's in debt? Turns out it's all because of this one evil bank in Luxembourg—default and it might assassinate your head of state just for fun. But never fear, Clive Owen is on the case in this stylish and surprisingly crisp thriller.
The Bigger Picture: If we're lucky, The International might just represent the next evolution of the modern action flick. Like the Bourne movies, it has international conspiracies and lead characters who hop from one country to another without seeming to suffer any kind of jet lag. Like Bond movies, it has a ruggedly handsome Englishman bent on revenge.
Yet unlike either, it eschews the shaky-cam, in-your-face style for a sharp big-picture cinematography style that makes even the de rigueur international cityscapes look as intricate and detailed as a Where's Waldo tableaux (try to catch this in digital projection if you can). And while there's plenty of action, the gunshots cause realistic, wince-inducing damage every time.
If you like Owen, you'll enjoy his dogged machismo as an Interpol agent in the face of overwhelming odds. If you hate him, you might get a kick out of all the abuse he takes—he's hit by a truck right off the bat. It's good to see director Tom Tykwer back to the hard-hitting, kinetic stuff—since his hyperactive U.S. breakthrough film, Run Lola Run, he's tended toward the arty and morose. Here he mixes both impulses, quite literally in a beautifully brutal shootout sequence that involves the complete trashing of New York's Guggenheim museum.
Naomi Watts is good too, as his associate in the New York district attorney's office, but she isn't given a lot to do, though the end credits hint at a possible sequel or spin-off for her.
The 180—a Second Opinion: This big evil bank has ties to all major world governments, and has infiltrated law enforcement at the highest levels...yet it only has one hit man on the payroll? And he wears an easily identifiable leg brace? Talk about your sloppy accounting.