Reviewed Apr 28, 2012
A thriller about the banking industry? You’d be forgiven for assuming it would be dull and full of tedious exposition, but with minor reservations you’d be wrong. Clive Owen plays an Interpol agent trying to track down the truth about a giant bank’s involvement in weapon sales, money laundering and other illegal activity. He is assisted or thwarted by various individuals and organisations along the way including an American DEA, Italian police and the bank itself.
The International is long but engaging and although I wouldn’t describe it as always gripping, it does demand your attention and keep you hooked through to the end. Not least as a result of excellent performances from Owen and the cast around him. I was particularly engaged by Armin Mueller-Stahl’s presence on screen, understated and calm yet totally real.
The story has a few holes and you have to wonder why it takes the police so long to arrive at a gun fight in a major public place in New York, but there’s nothing there that ruined the experience for me. I do wish more movies took more time to avoid the little niggles like this, but I wonder if any film actually manages to achieve that. The cinematography was subtle but really supported the cast and dialogue. There aren’t many action set pieces so it wouldn’t be true to call this an action-thriller but the one major set piece is certainly thrilling. The writers opted to avoid any twists and instead build tension through Owen’s growing frustration at the cases progression and the threat on the lives of those around him. I give them credit for that.
The end is downbeat, but rather expected and the newspaper headline snapshots during the closing credits do justice in wrapping up a couple of questions the main ending left you with. Overall this was a surprisingly enjoyable film which probably deserved more credit than it got from the critics.