The International (2009)

You remember those movies about world wide conspiracies and larger than life enterprises controlling armed conflict? Of course you do! Those movies are still alive and well. It isn’t as though they were something done and gone decades ago. So in watching Clive Owen’s 2009 thriller opus “The International” you should have that familiar tingly feeling in the back of your mind; both the “god, not this story again” and the “Huh, that was something I wasn’t expecting” tingly feeling. I guess you could say it is like your spidy sense, only much less handy when danger approaches.

The premise of The International is where one of the largest international banks funds conflict in the third world so as to control the debt generated by said carnage. In an age where governments bail out banks this is an appropriate, and easy, sell. Hence why protagonists Louis Salinger and Eleanor Whitman have such a difficult time in proving their accusations: the bank I so powerful that they are able to assassinate anyone who gets in their way- friend or foe.  It is an interesting plot if only for the mixture of over the top premises and down to earth pragmatism. What I mean by this is that though the story is as clichéd as it gets, the actual unfolding of the plot is realistic- within reason. By the end of the movie the protagonists’ efforts are in vain; the bank emerges from the ordeal stronger than before (plausible considering their power) while the characters never even get a chance to prove their story. The top bank executives who had information capable of validating their story, are killed. Replacements are hired and the world keeps on turning.

I found this approach better than the typical fairy tale ending of the conspiracy being revealed and everyone being shocked since it makes the entire plot appear more of a instance in a surreal movement than an entire experience in and of itself; this way, the primary character becomes not Louis and Eleanor but the bank as it takes on a life of its own; the ending, showing the former executives being so carelessly shot while the agents themselves are left unharmed as a “see, we are so powerful there is nothing you can do; Thank you for helping us eliminate this weakness” kind of assertion. Taking this route the directors more faithfully represented what such a large bank would actually be capable of doing and as such the natural course of events for any investigation concerning it.

Of course, this preference makes the film appear as a type of middle finger to the audience. Like an unfinished dream sequence. But is works. The ending credits display newspaper headlines outlining the post-end events. The story comes full circle insofar as the fate of the real antagonist (the bank) is considered. Even so I liked the film. Certainly not my favorite movie as it is not something I will be watching again, but it was a futile breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale genre of vast conspiracies.

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