Short version: The International starts out with a strong espionage vibe but is weakened when it strays into "action movie" territory.
Screen Rant reviews The International
I really wanted to walk out of The International having loved it, but the best I can manage is that overall I liked it a lot.
It's the story of Louis Salinger (Clive Owen), and INTERPOL agent working in France and his attempt to implicate a mega-banking firm in arms dealing. I loved how the film opens - the very first frame puts you right into the film with no preamble. Louis and his partner are trying to "turn" a bank executive and get him to provide evidence of the bank's misdeeds. Things do not go well within a few short minutes.
It seems that everyone is against Louis and he can make no headway in his investigation. People are being killed and "disappeared" but there is no concrete evidence of the bank's involvement. He is soon joined by American FBI operative Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts), who has been attempting to work the case state-side, and has also been running into roadblocks.
I don't dislike Naomi, but I have to say that she stuck out like a sore thumb as soon as she appeared. The first part of the film was shot in Europe, and I felt like I was immersed in the world of espionage - until she came on screen. I bought the actors up until that point completely as the characters they were playing - be it police officers, bankers, lawyers, whatever. But when she appeared it was like "oh look, she's playing an FBI agent." She was just terribly miscast in this film.
When the film moved to New York City it lost me even further. Suddenly I didn't buy any of the characters at all and it took me out of the film. Perhaps if the entire thing had begun in the U.S. and stayed there I would have felt differently, but the differences between the European and U.S. actors/scenes was quite jarring. It went from cool espionage film to typical cop action movie, and not in a good way.
There was one scene in particular that I found extremely over the top and out of place in the film: I dont' want to spoil it but it takes place at the Guggenheim museum where a big gun battle goes down. The amount of firepower, number of men and the complete and utter disregard for stealth did not fit one iota with what came before or after in the film.
It was like the studio told director Tom Tykwer "hey man, you're movie's kind of slow - we need you to stick a huge action set piece right here so you don't lose the audience."
Now I don't know if that's the case, but it certainly had the reverse effect on me. Once the movie moved back overseas, it started to capture my attention and I started enjoying it once again.
Overall The International is a good film that could have been great. If you're a Clive Owen fan, it's certainly worth checking out.