Saturday, February 21, 2009

A global mess requires an international film..

One would think that the arrival of film where the villain is a bank would make for great timing. Surely the film would benefit from the public’s resentment? Right? Apparently not. The International made about $10 million in the opening weekend despite opening in more than 2,000 screens. On the other hand, the 100th edition of Jason’s slasher adventures (dice, cut, scream, blood) made 4 times as much (yes it did open in 1000 more screens). The metacritic rating for The International is only 52/100, so clearly the critics were not impressed. So their bad reviews must surely have made a difference as it turns out that on the particular time I chose to see the film I was the only person inside a giant multiplex theater. Imagine that, a giant screen, stadium seating and I was the only person there. Surely that indicated that the film was awful, right? NO.

Tom Tykwer’s The International is an entertaining film that has a gripping action sequence (the bullet ridden shoot-out) and moves at a nice pace ensuring that the audience gets a good look at each locale (no fast cuts or frantic camera moments). Plus it has a very believable story regarding the evils of a big bank. Sure there are some flaws but the same problems plague most Hollywood films. Interestingly, most critics ignored such flaws when it game to The Dark Knight. Anyway, here are some interesting points the film brings up:

Cut out the middle man

When governments engage in stirring a revolution in another country they need massive funding for weapons and training. In democratic countries this means getting funding approved via some cryptic hidden causes because the general public can’t know that their tax money is being used to kill innocent citizens in another country. And when the funding is approved, the banks get to work moving the money around. All this process does take some time. So what if the banks decided to ignore the governments and start moving their own funds to stir up civil violence in nations? And when the civil war is over and the bank’s chosen government comes into power, guess which bank they will turn to get mega loans for rebuilding their nation?

There is a great line in the film which indicates that the goal of banks is to control the debt. So if a bank can know where to cause a war and where to stop one, then it would control that nation's debt. Hmmm...

Follow the weapons..

While following the money is important, in this day and age it is also important to follow the flow of weapons. There are only a handful of nations that manufacture weapons yet their weapons are freely available in most African and Asian nations. How? Why? If ones understands who moves the weapons and how then one understands the true villains of a conflict. But why is there no attention placed on the weapon flow? Because that would implicate the good nations who don’t want to get their hands dirty.

Don’t trust the man with the clean suit

Clive Owen’s Louis Salinger character constantly wears crushed suits. That is because he has no time to get his suit cleaned up as he is constantly in pursuit of his enemies. Most of the time he is unshaven and wears his anger on his face. On the other hand, the bankers and lawyers he meets are perfectly dressed -- clean shaven and wearing perfectly cut suits. These bankers and their lawyers do have a lot of money, blood money as it turns out, to ensure their looks and respectable appearance helps them trap more clients. There is an Italian politician in the film who is honest yet well dressed so obviously he can’t last long because the film ensures that the only well dressed men are the evil ones.

Look, look a bit longer and now action..

The film travels through multiple cities such as Berlin, Lyon, Milan, New York and Istanbul. And in each city the film ensures we get a good nice look at each specific location. There is a moment when the camera descends from the sky to give us a perfect view of Istanbul’s beauty. But unlike most movies the camera does not quickly cut away and it hovers a few extra seconds to ensure we can make out the people walking on the bridge and the cars driving about. A simple point but this aspect allows us to soak up the atmosphere and know the surroundings where the next moments of action will take place.

Note: The opening sky shot of Istanbul reminded me of Heaven and that is not surprizing as both both Tykwer and DOP Frank Griebe worked on that film as well.

Point A to B, Action, Point C to Point D, Action...

As soon as the film’s angry hero Salinger arrives at a location, the action takes place. On one hand it appears that each location is existing in a state of suspended animation and only when Salinger arrives do things move along. But there is a reason for this. There is a strict deadline that the bank works on in trying to eliminate all the people who can implicate them. At the film’s start when a innocent person is on the trail towards the bank’s evils, he is eliminated. The bank then eliminates the other person who could expose them within 9 hours. When Salinger goes on the move, he hits the road on the trail of an assassin. Since the assassin travels multiple cities via commercial flights (no private jets as the bank is probably cutting back) there are only a few fixed time slots on which he would appear in a city. So all Salinger has to do is follow him and as a result, he tags along all the film’s action sequences. Is that script cheating? I have seen this complaint in a few reviews so clearly people who don’t like the film use this. But no such excuse was used for The Dark Knight when the film moved from one action sequence to another.


Overall, I enjoyed The International. But I might be just one of the few who not only bothered to see the film but actually relished spending time in an empty multiplex for this.

Rating: a subjective 9/10

No comments: