Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The International

2009, US/Germany/UK, directed by Tom Tykwer

Although the ending has an unexpectedly sour note, Tom Tykwer's film isn't to be taken too seriously as a meditation on the international financial system; the villains, a group of nefarious bankers, are timely but never seem quite as mundanely careless as those who made themselves notorious as the financial system teetered toward collapse a year or so ago. Although it might have pretensions to something more, the film is a retooled James Bond outing, with Clive Owen's Agent Salinger very Bondian in his desire for action over desk-bound analysis, as well as his tendency to skip from one location to another quicker than a flash, although Tykwer dispenses with the carefully-timed romantic interludes and plays up the moral ambiguity that's been a feature of the last couple of Bond films.

Tykwer also has a more developed visual sense than most Bond directors, stretching out the frame at times by placing his characters at extreme ends of the screen, and creating careful contrasts between warm night-time tones in New York and harsh, grey office environments in Luxembourg. Although he's still capable of whipping up excitement from little more than an actor on the move and an electronic soundtrack, his pacing is closer to the more considered atmosphere of Winterschläfer than the insistently caffeinated action of Lola rennt, allowing the characters just enough room to develop into something more than ciphers (although Naomi Watts has to wrestle with some clanging lines of dialogue).

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States