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Originally published Thursday, February 12, 2009 at 3:00 PM


Movie review

"The International": a thriller that's fast-paced, fetching and forgettable

"The International," starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts, moves like a very expensive machine. Impressive, but hard to get excited about. Reviewed by Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 2 stars

"The International," with Clive Owen, Naomi Watts, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Brian F. O'Byrne. Directed by Tom Tykwer, from a screenplay by Eric Warren Singer. 118 minutes. Rated R for some sequence of violence and language. Several theaters.

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"The International," Tom Tykwer's crime thriller starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts, wants to be a "Bourne" movie. It races from one exotic city to another, capturing meetings in minimalist-chic rooms with shiny halls and glossy walls, following men wrapped in trench coats through the rain. Everything about it is good-looking, tautly paced and sophisticated; what it isn't, unfortunately, is memorable.

Perhaps the fault lies with Eric Warren Singer's often convoluted screenplay about a group of corrupt and murderous international bankers (now there's an appropriate villainy for 2009); perhaps we're all just getting blasé about fast-paced thrillers that race us around the world. Nonetheless, even Owen's manly jaw — does he ever speak without picturesquely clenching it? — isn't enough to elevate "The International" above the just-OK ranks.

Owen plays Louis Salinger, an agent for the international police organization Interpol; Watts is Eleanor Whitman, a Manhattan assistant district attorney. There's no chemistry between them, and there isn't meant to be; we're shown, in a quick scene of Eleanor at home with her nice husband and cute son, that attraction isn't on the table. Instead, the two of them sputter out lines like "I'm telling you he was murdered!" (Owen) and "We'll blow this whole thing wide open!" (Watts) and race around Milan, Berlin and New York City against a ticking clock.

Tykwer, returning to the breathless pace of his breakthrough 1998 film "Run Lola Run" (more suspenseful than this one, on a fraction of the budget), seems to revel in the scenery. Every street in the European scenes is breathtaking; every close-up of Owen or Watts makes them look like the glamorous movie stars that they are. A shootout scene in the Guggenheim Museum (though mostly filmed on a look-alike soundstage) makes creative use of the building's trademark ramps and open space, in vivid contrast to the dramatically lit lairs of the bad guys. It all moves along like a very expensive machine; keeping us interested but never enthralled.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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