‘International’ conspiracy lacks suspense


Film: The International

Director: Tom Tykwer

Producers: Lloyd Phillips,

Charles Roven, Richard Suckle

Writer: Eric Singer

Starring: Clive Owen,

Naomi Watts

Runtime: 118 minutes

Rating: R

Throughout the excessive runtime, Interpol Agent Louis Salinger (Owen), on more than one occasion, looks stoically into the camera, and utters the words “I’m confused.” After watching “The International,” so am I. I’m confused because this film, the first American film by director Tom Tykwer, the mastermind behind the contemporary classic “Run, Lola, Run,” is the antithesis of “Lola” in almost every conceivable way, revealing a film that struggles to elevate itself out of mediocrity and predictability.

“International” can best be described as a conspiracy theory film, one centering around the International Bank of Business and Credit, which Salinger believes is secretly funding terrorists, or some other group of evil doers. After years of studying them, he decides to take his investigation to the next level. He begins to work with Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Eleanor Whitman (Watts), in hopes that he can stop this mysterious organization before their evil plot, whatever it is, comes to fruition.

There are certain adjectives that shouldn’t be used to describe a story for a film. Typically, words like exciting and engaging are what good films strive for. But “International” settles for words like predictable and boring to describe its story. Characters seem to be going through the motions, that is, until there is a plot hole so huge that you hardly expect the characters to survive this logical leap of faith. The story ultimately stumbles to a conclusion that it can’t handle within the framework of such a flimsy narrative. And while I applaud the themes that are discussed at the ending, it’s like trying to follow a meal of $1 cheeseburgers with an elegant chocolate truffle imported directly from Austria.

Tykwer’s latest owes much to the tried and true cop drama, a little too much. This is seen more in the characters than anywhere else. Owen plays the cop that works outside the boundaries of the law, always to the chagrin of his superiors. Of course, he has a sordid past, one that may or may not come back to haunt him. As for the rest of the characters, they’re all ones you’ve seen on “NYPD Blue” and “Law and Order.” It reminds me of the caricatures of the cops on “South Park,” the ones that can’t solve a case even if the answer is right in front of them. I can only imagine that writer Eric Singer saw those episodes, but didn’t see the irony in them, instead mistaking them for a clever work of art.

This lacking story with cliché characters is really a shame when considering the talent behind the film’s two leads. Owens and Watts, two competent actors, seem to be going through the motions, as if they only showed up to remind everyone they still exist. Hopefully, they won’t be forgotten, because they certainly deserve better than this.

But not all is lost. The production values are top notch, delivering some well framed shots that are at least enjoyable to watch. Despite the film’s many flaws, Tykwer shows that he has competence behind the camera with some decent cinematography and editing to back him up. However, the film doesn’t take advantage of its international landscape. The movie jumps all over the world and each set looks the same, so much that everything blurs together and the audience mistakes New York for Italy. This ends up being only a small distraction as the film can still be fun to look at.

I really wished that Tykwer’s Hollywood debut would be on par with “Run, Lola, Run,” but the fact of the matter is that “The International” is substandard at best. It seems like such a waste, which makes it all the more frustrating. It’s by no means the worst film ever, not even of this year. It’s just one that has been done hundreds of times before, and it’s getting old.