Stars: **1/2 out of Four
Summary: Decent plot, great acting, and striking visuals make for a good R-rated thriller.
Review: I went to the movies this Friday the 13th, of the month of February, to see my second R-rated feature in theaters. It wasn’t ‘Friday the 13th’. It was ‘The International’, a surprising, globe-trotting crime thriller with a single action set piece. That’s right, just one; don’t believe what the trailers have told you, this is not an action movie. The slow pace may put off the people who are looking for an adrenaline buzz. That’s not to say that the single action scene we are shown is not impressive; it is remarkably well executed, grounded, and intense. Everybody involved gets hurt. Boy, do they hurt. It’s very shocking and bloody, especially for such an exhaustively realistic picture. You feel somewhat guilty for enjoying it, actually.
Enough about that. I did say that the film is “exhaustively realistic”, and that may be an exaggeration, but it somehow works. I really believed in the characters. The writing was somewhat thin, or blunt, at times, but the actors really managed to carry it to unprecedented heights. Clive Owen is especially good. He portrays an INTERPOL agent who teeters on the very edge of becoming corrupted by his fight against the titular bank, and I sometimes questioned how far he would go. Yet he remains noble, and a very human hero, much more so than most recent protagonists in action films. Alongside him is Naomi Watts as his (not romantic) partner, who provides his conscience and just plain good sense at times. Not that he lacks those things; she just gives them a public voice.
Opposite Owen and Watts are several very good actors playing the heads of various arms manufacturers and, of course, the bank. There is some very good interplay between Owen’s character and a former Communist, now a top player in the bank, which gives us insight into how both men see the world. How they interact is the best part of this movie, hands down.
I won’t bore you with details of the plot. I thought it was good entertainment, if dark and shockingly violent at times. As Ebert would say, two thumbs up.
NOTE: The Stars rating has been lowered from *** to **1/2, not because I think less of the film, but because I realize I may have overrated it.