Dir: Tom Tykwer
The International couldn’t seem timelier if it tried, as the world’s banks crumble around us, and bankers are cast as the villains in the eyes of the general public, here comes a thriller casting a giant investment bank as, basically, a Bond villain. The excitement just never starts.
The International is the blandest, dullest, most colourless film I’ve seen in some time, everything about it is utterly, utterly average, and executed with an ‘oh that’ll do’ feeling. It’s technically competent, largely because Tom Tykwer would probably struggle to make a film that wasn’t, but where is the energy of Run Lola Run, where are the sumptuous, almost tactile, visuals of Perfume, where is the intrigue and the memorable imagery of Heaven? None of these earlier examples of Tykwer’s work are perfect, but all at least have elements that stand out. The International boasts not one memorable image, not one scene that won’t slip from your mind as you rise from your seat, not one event or character you’ll care about and, in the end, not one reason for you to buy a ticket.
The script is powerfully dull, with endless chatter about things you barely follow and absolutely don’t care about, punctuated by just one action scene, which feels like someone has spliced in outtakes from a fan remake of the shootout in Heat, for no other reason than the fear that the audience may now be asleep, so some loud noises are required to bring them round. Add to this the fact that not one of the characters has anything approaching a personality (actually, I’m not sure any of them even has anything that could be called a trait, let alone a personality) and you’ve got the recipe for two hours of total emptiness.
I’ve long considered Clive ‘one performance’ Owen to be among the most overrated actors on screen, and he does nothing here to undermine that opinion. Actually, forget the last part of that sentence; he does nothing here. There is no sense, not for an instant, of Owen being anyone other than a very bored Clive Owen, growling his every line in the same ‘this is beneath me’ tone. It’s a punishingly tedious performance to spend two minutes with, and since he’s on screen for almost all of The International’s 118 minutes it soon becomes unspeakably irritating. Naomi Watts seems equally bored, and puts forth just as little effort, but at least she has the excuse of having nothing to do, she’s so obviously along as an attractive prop that nobody has bothered to give her any purpose in the story, you could lift her out with the smallest of rewrites, and the film clearly knows how little impact she makes because at a certain point she simply vanishes, never to be seen or spoken of again.
The International is, make no mistake, a terrible film, but it’s not quite completely worthless. It’s not inept, just inert. The technical aspects of the film are all carried off with unfussy competence, but no more. It all feels as if it’s been done with the least amount of effort and imagination possible and that just isn’t good enough. Keep your money, don’t give it to banks, and for heaven’s sake don’t give it to the people who made The International.