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THE INTERNATIONAL
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Clive Owen, Naomi Watts, Armin Mueller Stahl, Brian F. O’Byrne
Director: Tom Tykwer
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Sony
Features: See Review
Length: 118 Minutes
Release Date: June 9, 2009

“If you really want to stop the IBBC, you won’t be able to do it within the boundaries of your system of justice.”

Film ***1/2

By now, we’ve all seen movies with concepts that may have sounded good on paper as opposed to being executed on screen. The International is one of the few movies I’ve seen with the complete opposite effect. On paper, the plot sounds ridiculous but it has been executed on screen in a most fantastic form.

Style over substance is not always a positive aspect, unless you have a director like Tom Tykwer at the helm. Tykwer brought us the unforgettable experience known as Run Lola Run, a brilliantly conceived and executed chase movie. For this movie, Tykwer puts his filmmaking style to use with the help of a big budget, and the result is downright electrifying.

If Gordon Gekko had been elevated to the status of Bond villain, it may have resulted in the plot of this movie. The villain in this story is a bank, The International Bank of Business and Credit to be a little more precise. It’s an organization that has been misusing its power to great effect.

At least that’s what Interpol agent Louis Salinger (Clive Owen) is trying to prove. For two years, he has been trying desperately to build a case against the IBBC. But his investigation has suffered many blows, as every witness he’s come into contact with has either disappeared or been killed.

What has the IBBC been up to? Let’s put it this way, in our current economic crisis people would be calling for the heads of everyone involved Not only have they been laundering money, which is an expected crime, but there crimes also fall under arms trading and the destabilization of governments around the world.

And this bank is indeed everywhere watching everything. In the opening of the movie, Salinger’s American partner has met with someone who’s agreed to testify, only to be killed by a mysterious device after someone brushes past him on the street. The witness is later killed in a car accident that Salinger knows was anything but accidental.

Salinger isn’t alone in his investigation. Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts) from the New York DA’s office is working alongside him. She wants to bring the bank down as well, but she also must keep tabs on Salinger, whose tactics caused the case to fall apart two years ago.

The movie starts out as essentially a slow burn procedural thriller, and it’s intriguing for every minute of it. However, the movie contains an action sequence that is seriously one of the greatest ever committed to film. It ranks right up there with heist shootout in Heat, and is probably the first modern day action scene to be executed in a pure Hitchcockian style.

Salinger and two NYC cops are tracking a man believed to be an assassin working for the IBBC. Their trail leads them to the Guggenheim Museum. Once Salinger has the man cornered, gunshots erupt out of nowhere as numerous gunmen come out of nowhere to wipe out the assassin before he can be brought in.

This sequence is an absolute rush, and not just for how the action is handled. It represents filmmaking on an astounding level, as Tykwer and cinematographer Frank Griebe pretty much escalate the tension from the very moment the characters enter the Guggenheim (which was painstakingly replicated for the movie) by way of riveting camera angles and maneuvers, which only get more fantastic when the action kicks in. As far as action set pieces go, the Guggenheim sequence is easily one of the best in cinematic history.

The International is dynamic filmmaking, which is a quality we don’t see today in many action thrillers. It confirms more than anything that Tom Tykwer has officially arrived as director very worthy of this genre. Based on this film alone, I think he should definitely be picked to do the next James Bond movie.

Video ****

A film with a look this slick demands to be seen in Blu-ray, and Sony has delivered one terrific looking presentation. The phenomenal cinematography really shines in the 1080p, especially in the various location set pieces. The Guggenheim has never looked more spectacular! There’s not a single flaw to be seen here, as we get nothing but a crisp, fully detailed picture and knockout colors from beginning to end.

Audio ***1/2

Outside of the huge action sequence and a couple of other scenes, The International is actually quite heavy on the dialogue. Still, the Dolby TrueHD mix remains most effective throughout the movie. The Guggenheim shootout will rock you to the core in how amazing it sounds, as bullets come flying in every possible direction. Dialogue delivery is also quite strong, and sequences such as a political rally provide nice surround sound quality.

Features ****

Sony has provided another Blu-ray release with a stellar lineup of extras. To start off with, there’s The International Experience, which is a terrific Picture-in-Picture presentation. There’s also a commentary with director Tom Tykwer and writer Eric Singer, an Extended Scene, four featurettes; “Making The International”, “Shooting at the Guggenheim”, “The Architecture of The International” and “The Autostadt”. Lastly, there are several Bonus Previews for other Sony releases.

Summary:

The International is an action thriller elevated by fantastic filmmaking. The plot is perfectly gripping, and though it only contains one major action scene, it is one of the most epic in movie history. Solid entertainment that must be experienced on Blu-ray.

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