If 2009 has proved one thing at the movies this year, it’s that Clive Owen is not a movie star. In certain roles he’s an excellent actor, and he can headline movies too (Croupier being a case in point, and Shoot ‘Em Up, of course, being one of the most gleeful films of recent times). But when a higher budget production in some way rests on his shoulders? That’s when the problems seem to kick in.
We saw it earlier in the year with his caper comedy Duplicity, where he seemed to be filling in for George Clooney or Brad Pitt opposite Julia Roberts. And we see it again with the globe-trotting thriller The International, where he headlines as Salinger, a man who embarks on a quest to expose the criminal dealings of the International Bank Of Business And Credit (IBBC).
It’s a film that at times seems to want to be a Bourne movie, as it moves from location to location, with espionage, callousness and generally nasty people at every turn. Accompanied by Naomi Watts, who we first meet sat comfortably behind a desk, there are the guts of a good thriller here. And it’s a topical one too, given most people’s views of the banking industry right now. Banks are evil, and here are our heroes to save us from them. That should be a fairly straightforward sell.
But the problem with The International is, for too much of its running time, it simply fails to spark. Granted, the tone of it feels right, with shady characters having serious conversations, and it bothers to put forward a narrative that’s a bit more complex than your run of the mill thriller.
Yet it feels a little too laboured, and Owen – despite his earnest efforts, and his turning in a generally fine performance – is not the right man to guide us through it. Director Tom Tykwer doesn’t quite get the pace of the piece right either, and save for an excellent shootout sequence, there’s not enough here to lift The International out of the weighty doldrums in which it insists on living in for too much of its running time. It’s fair to say it’s a project that doesn’t really live up to its potential.
Credit where credit’s due, though, the picture quality of the Blu-ray release is terrific. This is just what I want from a premium, high definition disc, and too many recent releases, for my money, have been content to offer an improvement over a DVD equivalent, rather than striving for the definitive home cinema picture standard for a release. It’s not entirely perfect, but the picture quality here is sometimes quite sensational, eeking out every detail that the camera lens picked up. That’s pretty much how things should be. The audio, too, is generally outstanding, mixing in the subtleties with the broader pizzazz of an action scene.
You get a fairly good extras package for your cash, too. The commentary track from director Tykwer and screenwriter Eric Warren Singer is very good indeed, with the pair bouncing off each other well and delivering some genuinely interesting material about the production and its influences. Tykwer is prominent in the good 30 minute making of piece, too, which also features talking heads from in front of the camera, too. Further, smaller featurettes then look at the shootout sequence in the Guggenheim, shooting inside Volkswagen’s HQ and looking at the architecture in the film. An extended scene and trailers round out a satisfying package.
The film, though, remains a disappointment, in spite of plenty of nice touches, and the feeling that someone really bothered to do something out of the run of the mill with it. For this reviewer though, the end product simply failed to grip in the way that a thriller like this should, and it all added up to less than the sum of its proverbial parts. A shame.
The Film:The Disc:
The International is available on Blu-ray now.