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The International

The International

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

CLIVE Owen’s globe-trotting thriller The International couldn’t be more timely given that it places a bank as its central villain. But far from feeling like a derivative cash-in on contemporary concerns, it’s also a first-rate action-adventure.

Owen plays obsessed Interpol agent Louis Salinger who is determined to bring down a German bank, which he believes is a front for terrorist groups and all manner of illegal activity. Supporting him is the equally determined New York District Attorney Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts). But as the two get ever closer to exposing their dangerous enemy, it becomes increasingly clear that they may have to work outside of the law to make any headway.

Tom Tykwer’s thriller works on many levels, not least in the way it effortlessly combines the visual style and ruthless efficiency of the Jason Bourne movies, with the fear and paranoia of some of the ’70s classics.

It also provides a strong star vehicle for Owen, who rises to the task commendably by turning his Interpol agent into a fiercely determined individual whose life is dedicated to bringing down the bank. Thankfully, Tykwer avoids the temptation to saddle Owen with any romantic complications, opting instead to concentrate on the cut-throat politics of the scenario and the dubious morality it invokes.

The bank itself is based on the real-life BCCI, a Pakistani-based outfit which, throughout the ’70s and ’80s was credited with providing a money laundering front for arms trafficking, before being exposed in 1991 and collapsing. It is personified in the film by Danish actor Ulrich Thomsen and a marvellously scheming Armin Mueller-Stahl, whose wily veteran walks off with several of its best moments.

Also satisfying is Tywker’s neat balancing of intrigue and action, with one set-piece, in particular, standing out… a stunning shoot-out in New York’s Guggenheim Museum which is as good as anything you’ll see in a 007 or Bourne movie.

The use of location is also first-rate, taking viewers from the streets of Milan to the rooftops of Istanbul without ever feeling like you’ve been there, or seen it before.

Conspiracy theorists will also delight in the fact the film doesn’t tie up every loose end, while those with a strong grasp of current economic trends and European politics will also appreciate the many nods the screenplay gives to current and past concerns.

The only minor criticisms stem from a curiously under-written role for Watts and the occasional lapse in pace. But in all other respects, The International is a first-rate thriller that proves itself more than capable of competing in a genre currently being bossed by the likes of 007 and Paul Greengrass.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 2hrs
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: July 6, 2009