The International

That’s the International Bank of Business and Credit, or the IBBC, an entirely fictional financial institution, I’m sure. It could also be called the International Big Bad Corporation, because they really are Bad with a capital B. But don’t worry! Clive Owen is on the case… though really, he doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.
Clive is Louis Salinger, ex-Scotland Yard detective, who’s an ex-detective because of his obsession with bringing down this bank. The rest of the world seems to think the IBBC is no better or worse than any other huge bank, which might be bad enough, but still nothing out of the ordinary. But Lou Knows Better, and even though he works for Interpol instead now, he’s still on the same old quest, with his boss’ reluctant cooperation.
Helping him is Naomi Watts as New York ADA Eleanor Whitman. I’m not sure how she got involved in all this, exactly, but she is, and she has the important responsibility of keeping Lou from entirely wrecking the case before they even have one. This is more than a full-time job, and she doesn’t entirely succeed at it, but she does her level best. She does at least look presentable and respectable, unlike Lou, who usually looks as though he’s slept in the same clothes for two night straight and has forgotten what a razor is.
The bad guys, by contrast, always look perfect. Tailored suits, immaculate hair, nice cars, offices and homes that look like architectural and/or historical landmarks — that’s the best way to tell who’s who for a lot of the movie. If someone’s office looks like it could be featured in a magazine spread, with perfect natural lighting and large, shiny desks that look like not a speck of work has ever been done on them, that someone is a bad guy. If someone’s office is a largely windowless box, piled with so many papers and file folders that you could lose a large dog in there, that someone is a good guy. I wonder if that works in real life, too? That may be worth testing.
Where was I? Oh, yes, the movie does have a certain realism about it that isn’t quite usual in these sorts of flicks. Lou never turns into a Bourne-style super-spy, and there aren’t really any unlikely stunts or wild maneuvers that seem like they should never work even with a couple of weeks of planning, never mind on the spur of the moment while being shot at. There’s some good police investigating, a lot of legwork, and a little luck involved in tracking these white-collar evildoers; and the evil is actually very quiet and controlled as well, which is the best (or maybe the worst) kind of evil to have. It’s certainly harder to stop than the flashy let’s blow things up kind of evil.
Lou seems to subsist on black coffee and ice baths in lieu of sleep, in a perpetual state of jet lag as he travels Europe and New York, tracking the clues. The IBBC has a pet assassin (sorry, consultant), it turns out, a guy who looks sort of like the Hollywood version of an accountant, and Lou is convinced this is the link he needs, the one person he can turn who can really tell all about the bank’s plans. It’s a good plan, but of course the first thing that needs to be done is to catch him, and he’s very good at avoiding that sort of thing, unsurprisingly. He only looks faintly helpless.

Whatever they call the place, how could you not want to run around on those roofs?

The chase is gorgeous, though. The action races through Milan, Lyon, Luxembourg, and best of all Istanbul (not Constantinople), which is now on my list of places I really want to visit. You may have seen the preview where Lou confronts Bad Guy Jonas Skarssen (Ulrich Thomsen) up on what looks like a sidewalk running across the tops of lots of red-tiled roofs, and apparently that’s real, a sort of skywalk that must be wonderful to use. Anyway, you may recognize Thomsen as another bad guy, Davidov, from the Bond flick The World is Not Enough, but if you get the chance, watch him as the title character in Adam’s Apples, a Danish indy film that will make you laugh in spite of yourself.
There’s more realism in the fact that the movie just sort of… stops. You’re waiting for a further sting, something to tie everything up, and you sort of get it as the credits start to roll, but it’s hardly the big-bang ending you might expect. Still, I didn’t feel cheated or anything, which could easily have happened, and that’s much more how things would happen out in the world. Realism is kind of the new black, these days.
Three and three-quarter idols for this one. One-half is just for Clive Owen, who could make reading a menu aloud sound fascinating; and one-quarter is because someone managed to keep things from getting too predictably Hollywood, which would have annoyed me no end. The supporting cast is uniformly excellent, especially Armin Mueller-Stahl as Wilhelm Wexler, father figure to the IBBC; and Felix Solis and Jack McGee as two NYPD detectives also on the trail. And a special shout out goes to the Guggenheim Museum, otherwise known as the white spirally building which is very cool to look at but wastes an incredible amount of space, for being shot up in such spectacular ways.