The international – film criticism

The international - film criticism

The International – Film Review

In the movie “The International,” Interpol agent Louis Salinger and prosecutor Eleanor Whitman are determined to bring one of the world’s most powerful banks to justice. The discovery of illegal activities such as money laundering, arms trafficking and the destabilization of governments drives them halfway across the world: a risky chase from Berlin via Milan to New York and Istanbul.

Their unyielding stubbornness also puts their lives at risk as the bank will shy away from nothing, not murder, to continue financing terror and war in the future.

Action / Summary

The International

Louis Salinger, examines the business practices of one of the world’s largest banks, IBBC (International Bank of Business and Credit), based in Luxembourg.

Whenever he manages to find witnesses, they die shortly afterwards, or are manipulated to be silent. He eventually teamed with District Attorney Eleanor Whitman to bring the bank to justice.

However, the prosecutor receives additional pressure from above to stop the investigation, because the two can provide no useful evidence or even evidence. The money flow of the bank, which is used for everything from weapons deliveries over terrorism to murder,
brings Salinger and Whitman a small world trip (with small hand luggage for the aircraft cabin) from Berlin to Milan to New York to Istanbul, but the danger in a dead end, which finally closes the case, is great.

As the IBBC Bank, the conversational Umberto Calvini, the owner of a weapons factory and candidate for the post of prime minister, killed by an assassin, the events skip.

Two senior bank managers, White and Wexler (who appear willing to cooperate with the investigators) and their chairman (Jonas Skarssen), are killed in revenge on the orders of the sons of Calvini.

Prior to his death, Wexler, a former Stasi colonel, told Salinger that the IBBC was virtually untouchable because it benefited terrorist organizations, drug cartels, governments and powerful companies of all nationalities. Even if he could bring down the IBBC, there would be hundreds of other banks to replace them. If Salinger wanted justice, he would have to attack the bank from the outside, and he could count on Wexler’s help.

Salinger is stunned after the death of Wexler, he stands there empty-handed: his investigations are pending.

During the credits, it clearly shows that the bank under its new chairman is expanding even more aggressively than before.
However, the new size awakens, even stronger resistance. In the last scene of the credits, the founding of a committee of inquiry of the US Senate, under the direction of Eleanor Whitman, is shown.

Review / review

Short & Painless

Even those who are not usually very aware of camera rides will hardly be able to escape the elegance that Tykwer delivers here, and reconsider his attitude to the importance of perfect camera movements and angles.

Not enough, that he lets the suspense begin early with strong verbal encounters / hard looks between the characters.

Especially the way he frames scenes and pans the camera along beautiful locations like the Guggenheim Museum or the IBBC headquarters or the old buildings, narrow, busy streets and rooftops of Istanbul is fantastic. Almost every scene has a lively visual quality.

His only mistake lies in the film’s only big action sequence. It’s a bloody shootout inside the Guggenheim Museum, but it just seems chaotic and details are hard to spot; it looks like a Paul Greengrass imitation, but without the exciting energy of a movie from the Bourne series.

The role of Louis Salinger to occupy with Clive Owen, which is a very good idea. He gives the character a determined, serious demeanor. And with the kind of roles he’s been playing lately, you wonder why this guy refused the role of James Bond. She seems to be written on it.

The rest of the cast is fighting with weak character development. Naomi Watts role is so pale that it would be easily surpassed by everyone’s grandmother. Armin Mueller Stahl shows himself to be a former communist who has lost his belief in the system and now works as a consultant to the capitalist class enemy. He gets a single well-written scene, man-to-man with Owen, but nothing else that would leave a lasting impression.


The film was released on DVD in 2009, and receives mostly good reviews on Amazon (average 4.0 (up to 5 stars, 131 reviews); As of November 2016). The rating at IMDB is 6.5 / 10 Points (80,000 ratings).

The film has been broadcast three times on German television, most recently in September 2015 by Kabel Eins.

The International

The official trailer

We can not expect every Tom Tykwer movie to be as inventive or intense as “Lola Runs” (1998) or “The Warrior and the Empress” (2000), and so “The International” feels almost like a breather. It’s a spy and bank drama with guns and scams and of course the “good side”; played by a duo: the Interpol agent Louis Salinger (Clive Owen, brilliant) and the New York prosecutor Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts, not really convincing).

All in all, it’s a very pleasant movie: clever, well strung, and of course filmed beautifully.


List of soundtracks


A few details & anecdotes

The IBBC mentioned in the film refers to the internationally operating Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI, based in Luxembourg, bankruptcy in 1991) involved in money laundering, arms trafficking and drug trafficking on behalf of governments, intelligence services and terrorist organizations.

An explosive shootout takes place in the famous Guggenheim Museum (New York). The production team used the Guggenheim’s original blueprints to build an original-sized replica of the interiors in an abandoned locomotive shed. The construction lasted 4 months.

The name of the Italian businessman Calvini is borrowed from the mafia banker Roberto Calvi, who also died under mysterious circumstances spectacular.

The assassination of Calvini alludes to the Kennedy assassination, in which officially shot only a shooter who was murdered shortly thereafter.

The assassination of the Interpol agent in Berlin in turn alludes to the poison attack on the Bulgarian writer and dissident Georgi Markow.

Originally the release of the film was scheduled for August 2008. After poorly rated previews, some scenes were re-shot to more clearly pinpoint the character of an action movie. The film was released in February 2009, coinciding with the worst banking crisis in US history.


The best quotes from the movie

Sometimes a man can meet his fate in the street he took to avoid him. [Colonel Wilhelm Wexler]

Sometimes the hardest part of life is knowing which bridge to cross and which one to tear off … I am the one you are breaking off. [Louis Salinger]

No, this is not about profit from arms deals. This is about control.

The IBBC is a bank. Their goal is not to control the conflict, but to control the debts caused by the conflict. You know, the real value of a conflict, the real value, is the debt it generates. And who controls the debt, controls everything. You find that worrying, yes?

But this is exactly the essence of the banking industry: we want to make us, whether as individuals or nations, slaves of debt.
[Umberto Calvini; as an explanation of the “true” nature of international banking]

The game (Go) requires concentration and overview. You have to think like a dealer and act like a thinker [Jonas Skarssen (Board of the Bank) to his son].

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