Friday, February 13, 2009

The International - Review

Suspense Sans Cliche -- Just How I Like It

By some stroke of luck I found myself at Regal Cinema this evening, front and center for a free pre-screening of The International, starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts. (And left just as undecided about who has the cooler star-worthy name.)

It's a classic man-against-the-system journey, with bug taps buried deeper than corporate corruption. Louis Salinger (Clive Owen) is an Interpol officer with a history of dead witnesses and poorly managed anger. He crosses paths with Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts), an investigator for the New York District Attorney's Office, when the two share interest in a case involving an international bank brokering small arms deals with China and various Middle Eastern nations.

Let me tell you something, it doesn't matter. By the time the film reached its climactic action + blood + guns + suspense peak (and reach it, it did), I could have cared less what deep-seeded crime was being busted. Director Tom Twyker did a fine job of balancing political-thriller gimmicks with well-timed humor and super-stretched (in a good way) moments of tension.

Similar to its blend of tension and humor the movie also combines violent, sometimes gory, action with delicate attention to detail. (i.e. After the glass roof is blown off a building, and sent crashing down to crush its prey, snow falls through the opening left behind.)

And thank you, thank you, thank you for saving us from the boy with a vengeance, girl on a mission lust-fest that has plagued the last 75 crime suspense films I've seen. It was one cliche the film definitely did well to avoid.

Of course, there were downsides. As it took us from Germany to France to New York City, the script tended to veer a bit too far into the land of philosophical one liners a la "truth is stranger than fiction" and "justice is an illusion." There was also an unfortunate cut shot when a dying, blood-stained man was magically carried across 5th avenue to die quietly next to the Jacqueline Onassis Reservoir. Implausible.

If The International is a film worth seeing, it was made even more so by the fact that I saw it for F-R-E-E, free. (Sorry, but I couldn't hold back from the brag.) For you unfortunate souls who have to dish out the ungodly wads of cash it takes to get into a theater, it's probably still worth it. You're likely to chuckle, cringe, and hang on the edge of your seat at least once. At worst, you won't be bored.

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