The International: ** 1/4 (out of 4)
The tone of a movie makes a very strong impact on how I feel about the overall movie experience. It's not really the specifics of the tone, mind; instead, it's the consistency of the tone, the idea that a decision was made about the movie early in the process and retained throughout. Some of my favorite movies are, by any sensible definition, terrible; Bad Boys, for instance, is an awful Michael Bay action flick. But for me, its tone wins out; it is consistently over-the-top, loud, violent, and excessive.
In a similar way, the tone of Run Lola Run won me over years ago, with its fast-paced, dark, hopeful, and simply odd simplicity. That movie was director Tom Twyker's breakout film (as well as actress Franka Potente, but that's a different review), and I have continued to watch his movies as they have been released in the simple hope of finding something so pure of tone.
The International is, sadly, not that movie.
The movie tells an (admittedly timely) story of international intrigue and politics as it related to the world of high finance. The ICBB (I didn't think to write down what the acronym stood for) is a giant in the world of banking, and has begun to enter the world of arms dealing. As such evil conspiracies are wont, it would do anything to defend its plans and its secrecy, including murdering potential leaks and those investigating those leaks. And so the movie begins.
Played for understated drama, this could have been a telling story of the supreme power of corporations; played for melodrama, this could have been a story of evil lawyers and businessmen that would do anything to support their lifeblood. Instead, it went for a little bit of both.
To illustrate: the movie begins with the bank covering up a potential leak through two quick, well-thought-out, deniable murders. Later, they assassinate a major Italian politician to keep their secrets and still later, the Guggenheim Museum in New York becomes the scene of a set-piece shootout, with a half-dozen assassins killed as well as a slew of bystanders. Subtle murder, to public execution, and then a massacre - a tone could have been kept here. This could have been told with a sense of inevitable escalation, with the stakes being raised at every step; instead, the idea came through that all of these killings were business as usual, and that indeed the bank seemed to be more efficient as the stakes became higher and the publicity concerns were increased.
Still, it was a well executed movie. The fore-mentioned gunfight in the Guggenheim was a truly excellent set-piece, if silly from the onset; Clive Owen was as dependably intense as usual; and the European locations were interesting and enjoyable to watch. But the lack of consistency dragged the movie down to a slightly disappointing level.
I should probably go watch Run Lola Run again to make myself feel better.