Combustible Celluloid
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With: Clive Owen, Naomi Watts, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Ulrich Thomsen, Brian F. O'Byrne
Written by: Eric Singer
Directed by: Tom Tykwer
MPAA Rating: R for some sequences of violence and language
Running Time: 118
Date: 02/05/2009

The International (2009)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Spy Blue

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

German director Tom Tywker (Run Lola Run, Perfume, etc.) delivers his seventh feature film, and his third in English. It's an attempt at one of those hyper-intelligent, globe-hopping espionage thrillers that used to be made in the days when movies were made for adults. It's highly complex and/or convoluted, and a little scrutiny will rip at the fabric of the plot. But it has some superb action set-pieces and some surprising character depths, and it's possible to lose oneself in the moment and come away entertained. Clive Owen stars as Interpol agent Louis Salinger, who works with Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts) to bring down the IBBC, a huge international bank that specializes in laundering money and brokering arms deals, among other crimes. Of course, just about every country in the world has a stake in a bank like this, so our heroes quickly make lots of enemies. The plot stretches to include a specific arms deal with Israel and an assassination attempt on an Italian Prime Minister. Tykwer does an admirable job of balancing visuals and dialogue, never stooping to too much exposition or gratuitous action. Surprisingly, Louis and Eleanor share a tender, trusting friendship, but Tykwer refrains from any misplaced romantic tension (Eleanor is happily married). The high point, however, has to be the jaw-dropping, ever-escalating shootout in the Guggenheim.

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