The International has been described as a mix between Bond and Bourne. I can concur with this in a way. It is a mix of the talky bits in Bond that act as fillers between the fight scenes, and the bits in Bourne where they show shots of different European cities. The rest of the mix is filled with shit.
Too blunt? Ok, let me paint this picture. The International starts as a dark little thriller. It’s about a corrupt bank – ooo pertinent to today’s troubled times – and features lots of investigations and cover ups and people getting offed left, right and centre for being involved. Sounds pretty good. Trouble is, though it starts with the hook of “what on earth’s going on here, then?” this soon disintegrates into “this scene is a bit familiar to any other investigatory spy type thriller” (snipers, corridors, walking quickly for long periods of time, cases being turned down by ‘them in charge’) before slowly drifting into “I’ve stopped listened to the characters talk”.
It doesn’t help when the lead characters are bone chillingly transparent, Clive Owen sulking his way through as a man who starts off a bit rubbish and ends up like super assassin Leon, whose back-story is pretty much explained by his co-star saying “hey, I’ve got your file here. With your back-story. How about I read it out loud while we walk?” Said co-star is Naomi Watts, the unbelievable investigator type woman who clings to humanity by having one shot of her family life, before being reduced to “woman on the phone with the information that helps story along”, although granted she does get in on the walking and a tiny bit of action (the bit where Clive Owen out-runs a vehicle…) before being jettisoned from the story altogether, reduced to a name check at the end like we really give a damn about her insignificant presence.
What has got my goat here is that The International starts off with an air of importance. Some stark violence and a gritty plot gave it the edge, the assumption that it might be something more than your usual investigatory thriller piece. And after fudging attempts at making this style work in a way that is enjoyable to watch, it shoe-horns in the most preposterous shoot-up I have ever seen. Initially I thought it was finally getting exciting, until I started to wonder that for a film so intent on being all serious and clever, where all these dispensable henchmen were suddenly coming from and why the lead had turned into Rambo.
After that nonsense the film spiralled into a sea of who-cares, launching characters in willy nilly and churning the plot into indecipherable mulsh. Wholly disappointing, unfulfilling and inferior to most that have gone before it, The International sinks to a paltry CF-2. No wonder Clive looks so miserable – it’s the lowest scoring film of the year so far. Cheer up Clive, worse things could happen. You could be sharing the screen with Julia Roberts next. Oh…