If the latest Bond installment left you cold, Tom Tykwer’s unexpectedly electrifying spy thriller offers more than a quantum of solace.
Starring one-time 007 candidate Clive Owen as an Interpol agent pitting his wits against a Luxembourg bank that’s writing cheques for terrorists, The International is a globe-hopping Ipcress File for the credit crunch age.
Things kick off in Berlin, with Louis Salinger (Owen) the powerless witness at the broad-daylight murder of his partner, who has been sniffing around the bank’s dodgy dealings.
Determined to bring the organisation to justice, Salinger joins sides with US District Attorney Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts). Their investigations lead them to an electioneering Italian politico who’s tried to dish the dirt on the bank once before, only to find his chief witness fatally silenced.
It’s moments before he goes the way of silence himself, taken out by a sniper during a rally in Milan. Central European locations with the chill of the Cold War.
Faceless multinational companies who will stop at nothing to conceal their corruption. Hell-bent hero determined that justice can prevail. We’ve all been here many times before.
But in Tykwer’s assured hands, and boasting dazzling photography, The International rises to the top of the espionage pile. True, Owen’s performance teeters on the over-earnest, but his straight-face only makes us take his peril more seriously.
There’s no wisecracking to let us off the hook after the movie’s undoubted highlight, a scorching shoot-’em-up at the Guggenheim in New York, with Salinger getting more than he bargained for after trailing the sniper to the gallery.
And, as the place erupts in a hailstorm of machine-gun fire that lasts longer than is comfortable, it’s as if Michael Mann has stepped behind the camera.