The taut political thriller The International has a lot going for it: an elaborate, ripped-from-the-headlines plot about political intrigue and corporate hegemony; intense performances by the very concerned-looking Clive Owen and Naomi Watts; and a perfectly orchestrated, impossibly awesome shoot-out staged in the Guggenheim. You'd think that all this would be enough to give any movie a solid thumbs-up, but despite all the points it gains for furrowed brows and kick-ass gunfights, the film loses quite a few for being dry as burnt toast.
The rather complex story centers on Interpol agent Louis Salinger (Owen) and New York Assistant DA Eleanor Whitman (Watts), who stumble upon a corporate-backed geopolitical conspiracy stemming from an institution called the International Bank of Business and Credit. The two embark on an investigation into the IBBC, only to find it jacked into governments and corporations all over the world, with the idea of bringing the powerful entity to justice growing less and less realistic as their quest lands them in New York, Milan, Istanbul, and Berlin. Before the credits roll, the two have dealt with just about everything in the conspiracy thriller playbook, including money laundering, former Soviet loyalists, club-legged hitmen, the Italian mob, Middle Eastern war profiteering, and an old-school, shot-at-the-podium political assassination.
Weaving all that (and much, much more) into a coherent story was probably a difficult task, and while it's possible that The International makes sense on paper -- with all the dots connected and the plot holes closed -- that doesn't mean it's enjoyable on film. There's such a massive assortment of characters, locations, loyalties, and interests at play, the narrative continually loses cohesion, as viewers inevitably lose interest. Probably more important, though, is that even the coolest web of seditious, above-the-law power brokering would seem flat without compelling characters, and no matter how much we know they're capable of, Watts and Owen just aren't given the chance here to make us care. leave a comment --Cammila Albertson