The International (Tom Tykwer, 2008)

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Jeff
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#1 Post by Jeff » Wed Oct 31, 2007 9:45 pm

Just started filming. Here is the original Variety announcement:
Naomi Watts has signed on to star opposite Clive Owen in "The International," an action thriller that Tom Tykwer is directing for Columbia Pictures.

The plot centers on an obsessive Interpol agent (Owen) who spearheads an investigation into one of the world's most high-profile and powerful banking institutions in an attempt to expose them for worldwide arms brokering, corruption and murder. Watts will play a Manhattan assistant district attorney who partners with the agent to take down the bank.

Eric Singer wrote the screenplay.

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Antoine Doinel
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#2 Post by Antoine Doinel » Thu Sep 11, 2008 10:47 pm

Set pics.

Here's the trailer.

Man, Clive Owen can't buy his way into a good movie these days can he?

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kaujot
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#3 Post by kaujot » Fri Sep 12, 2008 12:59 am

I'm a Tykwer's apologist (loved Perfume), but that doesn't look like his work at all, with the exception of some angles.

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Antoine Doinel
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#4 Post by Antoine Doinel » Wed Oct 29, 2008 7:19 pm

New poster.

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Oedipax
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Re: The International (Tom Tykwer, 2008)

#5 Post by Oedipax » Thu Nov 06, 2008 11:41 pm

This has to be one of the most ludicrous premises ever made into a major motion picture. I was dumbfounded when I first saw the trailer.

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Antoine Doinel
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Re: The International (Tom Tykwer, 2008)

#6 Post by Antoine Doinel » Fri Dec 05, 2008 6:27 pm

New trailer, same ridiculousness.

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moviscop
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Re: The International (Tom Tykwer, 2008)

#7 Post by moviscop » Sat Dec 06, 2008 3:20 am

I was thrown off by the whole ATM (Murder, Extortion, etc) bit.

Looks like garbage to me.

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nsps
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#8 Post by nsps » Mon Feb 09, 2009 12:02 am

kaujot wrote:I'm a Tykwer's apologist (loved Perfume), but that doesn't look like his work at all, with the exception of some angles.
Yeah, I'm hoping the trailer isn't representative, but the Feb. release doesn't speak well of it. It would be a pity, though, if they shot an action scene at the Guggenheim and it wasn't awesome.

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jbeall
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Re: The International (Tom Tykwer, 2008)

#9 Post by jbeall » Fri Feb 13, 2009 10:19 am

Stephanie Zacharek kinda likes it.
Yet "The International" succeeds at all the things you can't tote up on a score card. And in the end, it works precisely because of all the things it's not -- if only more mainstream Hollywood pictures had these kinds of negatives going for them. This is a thriller where the cutting, even in most of the action sequences, is meticulous but leisurely. The elaborate set pieces are so beautifully worked out that you could take them apart, shot by shot, and fit the pieces back together like an intricate Chinese puzzle. The movie's rewards unfold slowly and quietly, but the payoff, despite the fact that few of us are feeling too kindly toward the banking industry these days, is hardly cathartic.

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#10 Post by hot_locket » Tue Feb 17, 2009 2:09 am

nsps wrote:
kaujot wrote:I'm a Tykwer's apologist (loved Perfume), but that doesn't look like his work at all, with the exception of some angles.
It would be a pity, though, if they shot an action scene at the Guggenheim and it wasn't awesome.
Oh, it was awesome.

Unfortunately, the rest of the film is a snoozefest, though Clive Owen's strong performance and recognizing the guy from The Office were small treats.

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colinr0380
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Re: The International (Tom Tykwer, 2008)

#11 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Mar 03, 2009 7:52 pm

I wonder if someone who has seen The International yet can tell me if I'm on the right track with these thoughts or not. I've read a number of reviews about the buttoned-down nature of the film which then explodes in the Guggenheim action sequence and then tries to return to a more slow paced form for the final sections, with mixed opinions on how successfully it does so. I haven't seen this mentioned before in the reviews busily comparing The International to Bond or Bourne but the thing that keeps coming to my mind is Tykwer's earlier film The Princess And The Warrior, which similarly starts quietly, has a big botched bank heist sequence in the middle of it, and then returns to its quirky romance between the couple for the final 45 minutes. I went into more details of the plot when writing about Heaven.

I'd be very interested to know if someone has seen both films and whether I'm on the right track with the idea that the film would be a little more understandable in light of the director's previous films (though of course the fast paced Run Lola Run, while perhaps the best known, is the most unrepresentative film in terms of pacing in Tykwer's filmography)

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Re: The International (Tom Tykwer, 2008)

#12 Post by cdnchris » Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:43 pm

I've seen both but in all honesty I don't remember how Princess and the Warrior worked with the bank heist. But I'm pretty sure it wasn't anywhere near as bizarre and out-of-left-field as the Guggenheim action sequence in The International. I'm not saying the film was believable in any way (it's easily one of the more absurd movies I've seen recently,) but it kept itself somewhat grounded and felt more like a 70's political thriller than anything (and I think because of this I was able to get into it more,) and then all of a sudden there's this huge shoot out that I'm sure Bond himself would be shocked to find himself in and the entire building is just short of being blown to shreds.

It was a pretty cool action sequence, though, better than anything in the last Bond movie and made great use of the building's architecture. In fact, the whole movie seems to exist just to have sequences in some amazing looking buildings.
though Clive Owen's strong performance and recognizing the guy from The Office were small treats.
I agree on both counts. Other than Naomi, I thought the performances were quite strong, much stronger than they probably should have been, even the villains, including the guy from The Office. I'm still taking in the movie and am not sure what to make of it yet. It's better than I thought it would be (the trailers actually make it look much worse than it actually is) but, yeah... It's still pretty absurd.

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colinr0380
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Re: The International (Tom Tykwer, 2008)

#13 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Jan 23, 2011 11:13 am

Spoilers:

I've just caught up with this one and really enjoyed it. I agree that the whole 'banks are hiring contract killers' premise is a bit absurd, trying to add an underground conspiracy/paranoia element to organisations that are both extremely impersonally run (thereby reducing the need for messy power grabs and covert murders, let alone highly visible assassination attempts), and which prove again and again that they are able to mostly act in broad daylight without any serious repercussions anyway. Looking at the film with the hopes that it will somehow 'explain' the current banking crisis might lead to it being seen as a failure - it is much more about the world changing around our somewhat naive hero and his ideals of justice and fairness, with the ideas of catching the 'responsible bad guy' becoming almost irrelevant by the end.

By the end of the film our lead character is sort of in the position the outside world is in of trying to figure out how to punish the person who is responsible and 'bring the system down', when everyone and no-one keeps it running (one of the nice implicit ideas in the film is that a bank is run under a similar principle to a terrorist organisation, with various autonomous cells allowing for certain actions to be carried out without the knowledge (or with plausible deniability) of other sections of the business). I like the way that our hero responds to this crisis by 'going further in' (in a call back to the answer the young son of one of the bankers gives to his father when asked about what should be done when you are in an impossible situation), taking a more personal, emotional, internal approach to the final conflict of the film after the wider world has betrayed every effort to bring the organisation to justice. Almost giving in to petty vengeance until he is 'morally saved' from the most unlikely quarter.

Clive Owen's character of Salinger does have the cliched role of the over emotional, previously suspended investigator (even with a murdered partner!), but I liked the way that the film underplayed a lot of this, along with the subdued relationship between his character and Watts's Whitman. That is probably the big difference I see in this from Tykwer's previous films, which often have an intense love affair going on inside them, often driving the narrative more than actual action. Even the three slight moments of connection between Salinger and Whitman are almost too much in their suggestion of a slight romance between them, though I thought that the biggest moment of these three - the professional comforting moment at the police station between them - is the least questionable, and best placed of all these moments. A lot of the promotional artwork, and even the extended deleted scene on the DVD, try to suggest that Watts will be placed in danger at some point during the film, and have to go on the run with Owen, but thankfully in the film as it stands Watts's Whitman is much more of a 'boss' figure, able to place some distance between herself and the more violent events (except for that moment when she gets run over!) I had read a couple of reviews that felt that it might have been a little sexist to drop her out of the film for the climax - a kind of packing off of the woman to wait for news back at home while the men confront each other - but I think that is a great move which speaks to the professional courtesy of the relationship between Salinger and Whitman, and the confidence to not have to throw a 'heroine in peril' subplot into the finale simply to keep Watts involved in the action in what would have been the most reductive way.

At the beginning I enjoyed the way that Salinger feels like a character similar to Mulder from the X-Files (or if you want a highbrow reference, a little like Hamlet!) - someone who has been working the case so long he seems consumed by it, making over-confident leaps of logic that are sensible to him yet might make other characters in the film feel a bit wary of his reasoning. This aspect slowly disappears through the course of the film, as the audience gets more drawn into his perspective, but it does lead to that interesting moment following the Milan assassination where we get Salinger's visualisation of the second assassin. I wonder if that sense of assurance in this being what 'actually' happened, together with the explicit flashback, is meant to feel a little jarring (there is some talk in the excellent commentary track about the way that putting a flashback on screen makes it more difficult to go back later and say that events played out differently).

This is why I don't think the film is really about banking at all, except superficially (and there was more of an audience pleasing condemnation of callous bankers in those segments between Lola and her father in Run Lola Run). It is more about a man trying to control his feelings of anger at injustice and wish for vengeance, instead channelling that emotion into a more productive way of fighting against 'the system'. (A film more relevant to the current banking crisis might have picked up from there to show how he would go about doing that, but I don't think that is what this film was going for)

In a strange way I think this film works well as a kind of film anticipating and promoting the importance of Wikileaks - it reaches a despairing, futile point at the climax of there being no way to fight against the 'big company', but reaches a kind of resolution through the idea of Owen relating who was behind their aspiring politician father's assassination in Milan to his (Mafia?) sons, causing them to withdraw from the deal with the bank and begin taking revenge themselves on the main figures at the bank. As with Wikileaks, there is the sense that, while we cannot do anything as individuals, maybe releasing the information can sour the deal for everyone and cause the bad guys to kill each other on our behalf! (And the film prefigures this ending a couple of times in the scenes where Salinger has to team up with first the assassin and then the assassin's contact at the bank, played by Armin Mueller-Stahl. The 'good' and 'bad' guys have their agendas momentarily coincide and have to help each other against the larger forces out to kill them both)

There are some interesting filmic influences - the commentary mentions Francesco Rosi and the 70s political paranoia thrillers as having an influence, and the Italian assassination has an intriguing feel of the final sequence of Day of the Jackal mixed with the idea of a 'patsy' and 'real' shooter of something like JFK!

One of the most fascinating aspects of the film, and the one that always kept it entertaining even while the plot was relatively straightforward, was the use of architecture. It leads to some stunning locations, and made me think it would be the kind of film Jacques Tati would make if he had dropped the gentle comedy for a political thriller! (the characters appearing and disappearing through the narrative, the use of crowds and empty spaces, the way some of the most significant events happen in the far background of shots, along with the gentle ironic humour at points, all felt slightly similar).

The Guggenheim Museum of course is the major set piece of the film, and I was expecting that to just be the one element of extreme architecture, but it runs throughout the film illustrating an interesting old world/new world contrast. It starts in Germany and Luxembourg, the 'old world', but one which is in the throes of a neo-capitalist reconfiguration. So there are all these wide, open plan offices, lots of glass and transparency in business dealings, yet also frosty and almost empty spaces. Very Playtime-esque in its impersonal, inhuman design. The architectural space also overwhelms the art pieces inside the spaces as well, presumably showing what is considered to be more important.

Then the film moves to the 'new world' of New York, which is busier, more cramped and cluttered. Desks and even rooms are full to bursting point with stuff. Buildings are piled on top of one another, or there are pans around an image to reveal or hide other sections of it, as if to emphasise the lack of space and the hidden areas of the city. There are also many more enclosed spaces to hide in or in which to interrogate other characters (compared to the huge glass walls of the Europe section).

There may be a tacit idea of the surveillance state running through this - everything in Europe is open plan (even the family homes!) suggesting both that there is nowhere to hide but also that there constantly is the possibility of being watched or monitored. It adds to that sense that the characters feel above the law, beyond punishment (or even totally in the right in the actions they are taking), because they feel able to, or have become used to, taking such decisions in such an open environment (Interesting parallels to Polanski's Ghost Writer could be made here). Also all of those giant glass windows seem to be openly inviting the possibility of public assassinations even before we get to the political rally in the public square!

In contrast New York seems much more privacy conscious, as shown in the attempts to talk to the paranoid doctor in order to investigate his records. In the commentary the writer and director talk together about Europe being the 'new world' of the 21st century, while New York is based around the 'new world' of the 20th century, not yet transformed with these kinds of monolithic, empty structures quite yet.

Interestingly the area where this is reversed is in art. The meeting between the assassin and his banker contact first takes place in a very traditional art gallery in Luxembourg, a very 'old world' place of large rooms full of framed paintings on canvas, which then gets contrasted by their meeting in the Guggenheim surrounded by lots of modern art installation pieces. This also adds to the sense of danger, as the modern surroundings are more suggestive of corruption, potential violence and things going wrong, as when Salinger and his companion are seen by the assassin reflected in the glass of one of the installations, which triggers off the massive gunfight setpiece. (That gunfight does also bear some comparison to Princess and the Warrior's heist sequence in that you have the hero having the person who has motivated much of his actions to that point getting fatally injured part-way through the sequence, causing him to have to complete the gunfight and escape carrying the injured party with them. I may be wrong about this, since it is a while since I last saw it, but I think there is a similar bulletproof vest gag in Princess and the Warrior as well).

Then the film goes to Turkey for its final act, which is used as the classical 'old world', where intrigues take place for political reasons rather than just for monetary ones, and the banker comes into contact with real, bustling life for the first time as Salinger chases him down, transcending the environment completely with the move to the rooftops, and eventually cornering him when the geometry of the environment has decayed too much to prevent his escape.

It is a beautifully constructed film in that sense, and very satisfying from that perspective even if the plot of the film does not feel too surprising. Very elegant with its scenes of symmetry, central vanishing points and an eerily beautiful way that objects such as cars (or dispersing crowds) become almost like geometric objects sliding past one another for the most aesthetically pleasing effect (Quite similar to the almost abstract moments of imagery in Run Lola Run, or the final long pull back shot of the idealised house on the cliff in Princess and the Warrior). Incidentally the other connecting aspect between those three films appears to be Tykwer's fondness for showing his main characters getting run over! It happens twice in The International, once (repeated twice though!) to both characters in Run Lola Run, and then spectacularly brings the central couple together at the opening of Princess and the Warrior! You always have to look both ways before crossing the road in one of his films!

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