Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The International (2009)

Director: Tom Tykwer
Cast: Clive Owen, Naomi Watts
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 118 min.
Score: 7 out of 10

I have to start off this review by making it very clear that The International is NOT a bad film. In fact it is in truth a very good film made by a very talented bunch of people. From a purely technical point of view there really isn't much to complain about. While German director Tom Tykwer delivers on his end, Clive Owen and Naomi Watts deliver solid and nearly flawless performances. That being said, at it's core it is a stock international thriller that does nothing to push the genre forward. I enjoyed it, yes... but I can't see myself going back to purposefully watch it again, though I might stop to watch it if I happened to run across it while channel surfing.

Being a fan of all of the principle people involved in this film I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed. Tom Tykwer is a director that has consistantly delivered films that are edgy and visionary (if you have not seen Run, Lola, Run... shame on you!). Clive Owen just oozes cool and I'd pretty much watch just about anything he's in; since The Ring (which is one of the scariest films of the last 20 years) I have had a healthy dose of respect and fanboy drooling for Naomi Watts. Sadly the move never really lifts itself beyond it's stock elements and because of the it fails to cross into greatness.

One element of the production really stood out for me and this is addressed in a short making-of piece that is included on the DVD. This was the use of architecture to drive home some of the major themes in the story. The buildings and environments literally become characters in the film. A prime example of this is the long gun battle that takes place in the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Frank Lloyd Wright's astounding spiral architecture makes an amazing back drop for a sequence that quite literally symbolizes the point in the story when everything that the main characters think is true is turned on it's head, spirals out of control and unravel right before their eyes.

In the end The International knows what kind of film it wants to be, but falls just short of it's goal.  While still good there are plenty of other films out there that play the genre better.  It's not an action packed stunt showcase, though it never claims to be. It can, at times, be a bit talky but it's no David Mamet gabfest either.

It's definitely worth a watch if you are either a fan of the genre or of any of the principal players involved.

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