The International

3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

German filmmaker Tom Tykwer never saw a glass partition he didn’t want to film, yet there’s something bracing about watching his reflex glossiness (see Run Lola Run, Heaven) applied to a pure genre exercise. This particular Parallax View knockoff has been directed with an almost mathematical sleekness: The gods always descend on cue, and the gripping central set piece answers the question “How many people can trail an assassin around the Guggenheim without being spotted?”

Still, even classed up with Clive Owen and Naomi Watts, the story—inspired by an actual late-’80s/early-’90s scandal—seems slightly confused and dated; with idiots getting fat off bailouts, the idea of bankers who command global hit squads suggests a competence worthy of nostalgia. Owen, sporting permanent two-day stubble, plays a traumatized Interpol agent; New York assistant district attorney Watts tags along, mainly for the purpose of having her jurisdiction questioned at every stop.

The International is strongest when it concentrates primarily on the nuts and bolts of intrigue, teaching us how to size up crime scenes and analyze the finer points of footprints. But first-time screenwriter Eric Warren Singer also leans heavily on contrivance. “Talk to me after the speech,” a politician advises our heroes, the better to give the villains an opportunity to shoot him. With plot devices like that, it’s amazing how far style will go.--Ben Kenigsberg

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