The International is the type of film that you can watch, understand everything that happened, and then completely forget about it because there’s nothing to hold the audience. Oh, there’s a plot that has things to keep you engaged, but since it doesn’t have a real closure (and if you think about it, you’ll realize it really can’t really conclude), you’ll walk away feeling disappointed and upset that you gave it two hours of your life.
We begin with a murder, or so our “hero,” Louis Salinger (Clive Owen), thinks. I call him “hero” and not “lead character” because I don’t believe you can call him a character without a large asterisk defining what you believe a character to be. If it means being more than a body to fill a role, then he doesn’t count (nor does anyone else in the film, for that matter). He sees some informant pass out, or maybe get poisoned, and for whatever reason, this makes him mad. I think the guy was an informant for him, or something like that, but this doesn’t come into play.
It turns out, Louis and a woman named Eleanor (Naomi Watts) have been doing things behind the banks of their respective companies (he’s with Interpol and she’s an Assistant District Attorney, if you really wish to know). They’re investigating some large banking company, the IBBC, because they think its funds have been used for any amount of bad things. You know, things like buying weapons for terrorist groups or supplying missiles to warring countries because that’s just the cool thing to do.
A lot of the time we spend involves tracking down an assassin, which leads us to an impressive shootout that takes place in Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. This was the highlight of the film for me, and if all the characters had to do was get this assassin fellow, the shootout would have served as a great climax. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Not by a long shot. Instead, there’s the overarching “let’s take down the bank” plot that we have to see to its conclusion. Or do we?
See, The International isn’t particularly concerned with when it ends. When it does come to a conclusion, you’ll probably continue to stare at the screen and wonder why they chose to end there. Luckily for you, newspaper headlines will fill you in on what you end up missing, and it’s not much. Truthfully, this is a fitting ending given the realistic feel of most of the film, but it’s a letdown for the audience. Sure, a cheap and clichéd ending wouldn’t have fit as well as the ending we do get, but I could think of a better way of concluding that keeps with the theme, but also gives us closure. (And I would discuss that if it didn’t involve spoilers.)
What we’re left with is an anticlimactic ending. We end after a “final” action, sure, but it doesn’t feel final. Instead, it feels like we could have another film, or at the very least, another half hour. And this would be easy to avoid! You’ll see this when you actually watch The International (or rather, if you watch it), but I’d reckon a lot of audience members aren’t going to be happy once the credits start to roll.
I said I’d come back to the lack of real “characters.” the truth of the matter is that there isn’t a single character in this film. If there are, they developed fully before the film began, and we’re seeing the aftermath. This doesn’t work. Why should I care about a guy risking his life for — actually, why is he risking his life? He has nothing motivating him other than him thinking that it would be a good idea. And what was the purpose of Naomi Watts’ character? She serves no reason to be in the film, and by the end, she’s told to leave for no reason at all.
Neither of these people have any personality, nor do we have reason to care about them. About the only thing that Louis has going for him is that he’s technically in the right. About as deeps as Eleanor gets is that she has a family. That matters in one scene, where we see her son asleep and her husband wondering if she’s ever going to get to sleep. Her character is also pointless, never actually doing anything useful except for the one scene where she was hit by a car. It showed us how she was tough, as she didn’t even get hurt except for the one scene where we see she got some bruises on her arm (not that this mattered either, though).
As I write this, I realize more and more just how little anything that happened in this film mattered. So many different things occurred that didn’t make any difference to later points of the film. The ending doesn’t give us a satisfying conclusion, and even it doesn’t have much build-up to it, with the short sequence that precedes it not being directly related to the earlier parts of the film.
The International suffers from a poor plot that features a great deal of unrelated content, as well as a lack of characters. It has people, but there is no development or depth to them. It’s like we’re already expected to know all about them and care about their plight. Well, I’m sorry, but I couldn’t care. This isn’t a poorly made film, and the shootout in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum was actually very thrilling, but for the most part, nothing matters and this isn’t a film worth your time.