Written by: Rob Van Winkle, CC2K Staff Writer
The New Clive Owen/Naomi Watts thriller preys on our fears and pretends to be timely, but is ultimately absurd.
In a recent article for Esquire magazine, columnist Stephen Marche had this to say about movie villains:
“Scary movies…make our broadest and vaguest terrors into something concrete and therefore confrontable. In the 1950s…the threat of nuclear annihilation became Godzilla, The Blob, the gigantic ants of Them, The McCarthy hearings gave rise to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the mindless consumerism of the 1970s to the zombies outside the mall in Dawn of the Dead. [And] the 1990s saw Natasha Henstridge in Species become the cipher for brand-new anxieties about genetic manipulation.”
Using this as our rubric, it would seem that the new Clive Owen/Naomi Watts thriller The International has found the perfect villain for our particularly precarious times: a huge multi-national bank. With banks getting sold or going under seemingly every week, what better time to see a movie about a bank that markets in shady and irresponsible transactions, going down at the hands of intrepid agents. A movie like this, at a time like this, has the very real potential to have the audience standing up and cheering as the credits rolled. And so it might have been, except for a few key issues:
The Plot – Clive Owen and Naomi Watts are agents investigating the IBBC, a bank based in Luxembourg that they suspect of trafficking in weapons to warring countries. However, every time they get close to a potential witness, that person ends up dead minutes afterward. As the movie progresses, we subsequently learn that the future success of this bank is tied to a massive sale of missiles that they are hoping to get completed within the next sixty days. If it falls through, the bank goes down with it. Interesting plot…with a few problems:
- The bank’s evil plot revolved around controlling the world’s debt. “You control the debt…you control everything.” To this end, the bank sets out to sell missiles to penniless government insurgents, hoping to create powerful allies once those insurgents are in power. Now this is a great plan, as we have all learned just how successful banks are when they take on debt from people who can’t pay it back!
- This bank, even more than The Joker, has an inexhaustible supply of hired goons. When they hire a kickass assassin to kill an enemy, they also have the foresight to hire a SECOND assassin JUST IN CASE the first one commits an error. They ALSO have the chief of police on the payroll, so he can kill the first assassin and plant a second bullet casing in his room. Later on, when a recon mission goes wrong in the Guggenheim museum, we see that perhaps one out of every three guests at the museum is a semi-automatic wielding baddie ready to shoot to kill. How can this bank SELL any weapons when they keep using them all?
- A huge amount of the plot is wrapped up in the identity of this second assassin; if they can find him, they can use him to get at the evil bank. When Clive Owen discovers where this guy stood during the aforementioned assassination, he then finds a footprint. It turns out, this guy wears a foot brace! Through this INCREDIBLY FORTUITOUS happenstance, they are able to get a name and a face. Man, it was SO LUCKY that the footprint wasn’t just of a shoe, but contained a vital clue.
The Clichés – There were moments in this film so obvious, the audience started laughing. The most notable one came about halfway through, and deals with the assassination. The man in question candidly delivers damning information about the bank; it is clear he has the power to take it down. Clive and Naomi beg him to help. He stops, ponders for a moment, then says “See me after my speech.” The giggles started right up. Sure thing pal; we ALL KNOW you’re going to survive the next few minutes of screen time…I mean, nothing could go WRONG with this plan, right?
The Pacing – Ninety percent of this movie takes place in about three days. Suddenly, the final few scenes start whipping forward weeks and months into the future. This inconsistency makes the end feel disjointed. Speaking of which…
The Ending – (SPOILER ALERT!!) I heard a review of The International on the radio the afternoon before I saw it, and the reviewer postulated that this could be a successful movie, if only because people in today’s economy would take great pleasure in watching heroes take down an evil, irresponsible bank. Good point. Unfortunately, this is not that movie. You see, after everything we see and experience…THE BANK WINS!!! My wife was so horrified that she kept her mouth in an expression of wide-open disgust for the entire walk back to the car. What, pray tell, is the point of a movie that personifies our greatest fears into a tacit enemy, then lets it triumph?
There are other points to be made here, but why bother? The International is hell-bent on cashing in on our current financial fears, yet fails to offer any catharsis (Purists MIGHT point out that the VERY END…shown as the credits begin…MIGHT offer the slightest gleam of hope, but I call bullshit). It means well enough, but I’m not buying (I can’t afford it anyway.)