Sunday, 29 November 2009

The International, Tom Tykwer, USA/ Germany 2009

When Tom Tykwer's The International opened earlier this year the reviews were such that I decided to wait until it's out on DVD. In other words, they were bad, and that's putting it mildly. As a result, Tykwer's film disappeared quickly from the screens, and wasn't helped a bit by the fact that it was chosen as the opening film of this year's Berlin Film Festival. Anyway, therefore I was quite surprised when watching The International for the first time last night, that it is actually not an uninteresting film. Not a masterpieve, to be sure, but it does indeed have its merits.

The International is a slick thriller, a cross between the James Bond and the Bourne franchises - although unlike those two, it has the additional twist - or bonus - of touching on a subject that has been on everybody’s lips recently: banks. At the time the film opened, this was expected to give Tykwer’s film some added momentum - which it didn't. Nevertheless, it injects it with a relevance which two years ago, when the film went into production, few people guessed the film might have.
Although the plot is difficult to follow and best be not held up to scrutiny, Tykwer and his scenarist, Eric Singer, get away with because The International is so fast paced, so nervy, hopping from location to location whereby exchanging one swanky hot spot for another, that Tykwer’s film at times looks like his location scout is a subscriber to Architectural Digest. The climax of The International is taking place in one such architectural highlight - the Solomon Guggenheim Museum, no less - only that in order to stage the elaborately choreographed showdown, Tykwer’s art director had to reconstruct the Guggenheim’s interior at Berlin’s Babelsberg Studios. With all the bloodshed, the disaster and distraction caused by the shootout, which, by the way, pays homage to the best films by De Palma, Schlesinger, and Pakula, filming at the actual location would have been impossible. Clearly, the locations are as important to the plot as are the protagonists - played by Clive Owen and Naomi Watts - and sometimes they even outshine them since given the action-driven plot, they don’t have that much to do. However, this remark is not intended as a putdown, but simply to highlight the fact that The International is an action-thriller, and as such is up there with the best of them.

The International is out on DVD.