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Film / The International

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A 2009 conspiracy thriller directed by Tom Tykwer, starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts.

Interpol Agent Louis Salinger (Owen) and Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Eleanor Whitman (Watts) are determined to bring to justice one of the world's most powerful banks. Uncovering illegal activities including money laundering, arms trading, and the destabilization of governments, Salinger and Whitman's investigation takes them from Berlin to Milan to New York and to Istanbul. Finding themselves in a high-stakes chase across the globe, their relentless tenacity puts their own lives at risk as the bank will stop at nothing — even murder — to continue financing terror and war.

Tropes present in this work include:

  • Alas, Poor Villain:
    • The Consultant dying in front of Salinger with a look of regret repeating that Skarsen would not let him speak by any means.
    • The shot of Wexler lying dead in one of Hagia Sofia's columns. He did collaborate for a cruel organisation and had a background as a former colonel of the Stasi but his tragic backstory (divorce, a daughter who committed suicide) and his revelation that he wanted to be as honest as Salinger though destiny did not permit him. Salinger wanted to help him find redemption but Wexler faced it and found it through death.
  • Always Murder: Salinger is convinced of this when his partner has a heart attack after meeting a contact. He's right, of course.
  • Arms Dealer: Skarsen's IBBC provides weapons to many nations in war, especially the ones in the Middle East and some countries in Africa.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Borders on Downer Ending because the bank is still doing dirty work as newer, equally corrupt leaders take the place of the ones killed off.
  • Blast Out: The Guggenheim scene feels like a scene out of a First-Person Shooter.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Notable during the Guggenheim shootout. Guns only run dry when the story needs to build dramatic tension.
  • Bulletproof Vest: The Consultant. Subverted however — though it stops bullets from killing him, the impacts were so severe he's forced to remove it just so he can breath, then is shot dead anyway afterward.
  • Co-Dragons: Skarsen has four main assistants, including Wexler who acts as a consultant. By the end, two of them die along with Skarsen but two remain alive with one becoming the new CEO of IBBC.
  • Cold Sniper: Aside from the Consultant there was also a second sniper that was used as a scapegoat when Salvini was assassinated. The Consultant acts very cold but he gets redemption when he momentarily allies with Salinger and dies in his arms.
  • Contract on the Hitman: After the Consultant is exposed, hitmen are sent to silence him before he can talk.
  • Corporate Conspiracy: The IIBC is at the center of one of these, funding wars in the third world as a means of profiting of the debt. They even have Professional Killers on their payroll. Sadly based on a real institution, the BBCI; when it was shut down in 1991 by an international law enforcement effort, other banks began to become involved in the same sort of business, most notably HSBC which was "Too Big to Prosecute."
  • Cruel and Unusual Death:
    • Detective Ward is shot in the neck and blood starts spouting from the wound. Salinger attempts to cover it but it's almost impossible with the hitmen shooting at him. He succumbs in painful agony drowned in his own blood.
    • Thomas Schumer at the beginning of the film. He suddenly vomits and then suffers a heart attack as he is about the cross the road after he is poisoned without notice.
  • Daddy's Little Villain: The Big Bad keeps his young son around for a teleconference as they play a game of Go.
  • Deadly Euphemism: "The Consultant". Also, the Italian hitman that kills Skarsen at the end of the film who "brings" the salute of Enzo and Mario Calvini in the form of a bullet.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: If the Big Bad's mooks hadn't been tipped off by the birds, the film would have ended way differently.
  • Dies Wide Open: Combined with Died in Your Arms Tonight, this is the way the Consultant dies in New York in front of Salinger.
  • Dirty Cop: The head of the Italian police, setting up the fake assassin and hindering Salinger's investigation.
  • Dragon Ascendant: By the end of the film, Ehames, one of Skarsen's four main men, becomes CEO of the IBBC after his boss' death.
  • Enemy Mine: Salinger and the Consultant escaping the Guggenheim after the latter becomes aware of the hit put out on him.
  • Establishing Shot: Many, many of them - the name of the film is entirely justified. Most of them are very pretty.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • Jonas Skarsen has a family and loves playing Go with his son to teach him basic strategies when dealing with trouble. A videoconference does not stop him from having a good time with his son.
    • Wilhelm Wexler, a much more sympathetic man, had a wife and a daughter but his marriage crumbled after his daughter committed suicide.
    • While the Calvini brothers have honor, they treat their father's death personally and they order to kill White, Wexler and even Skarsen himself.
  • Fair Cop: Salinger, played by Clive Owen.
  • Falling Chandelier of Doom: Salinger shoots a hanging sculpture in the Guggenheim Museum to fall to the main floor and kill two hitmen guarding the entry.
  • Forensic Drama: Briefly twice, when looking into the assassination of Calvini and when Salinger discovers that Schumer's heart attack was caused by a poison.
  • Grief-Induced Split: Wexler's marriage fell apart after his daughter committed suicide.
  • Handicapped Badass: The Consultant. Becomes a plot point when his leg brace allows the police to track him down.
  • How Dare You Die on Me!: Oddly, delivered to the Enemy Mine in the gallery shootout - more a case of "I can only get out of here if you help me", but there's also the fact that Salinger wants him to testify.
  • Interpol Special Agent: Played with. Even though Salinger pretty much leads the investigation of the bank, it's clearly stated by his colleague early in the film that Interpol is not a law enforcement agency in itself, but deals with intelligence and liaison services for other agencies.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Gorily averted on several occasions. One character bleeds out messily from a neck wound, one takes a long time to die from a stomach wound, and all the professional killers in the film employ Make Sure He's Dead head shots.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Mostly averted, despite all the local police forces involved. Most of the friction is with the higher-ups. But it's Played Straight with the corrupt Italian police chief who directly interferes with Salinger's investigation.
  • Karma Houdini: The bank itself. Various members get well-deserved deaths, but even with Whitman's charges at the end it's strongly suggested the IBBC will survive.
  • Morally Bankrupt Banker: Jonas Skarsen not only pretends to sell weaponry to other nations, he wants to create a debt to trap them.
  • Monumental Battle: In the Guggenheim, New York.
  • Nebulous Criminal Conspiracy: The bank is simply the middle man at the center of one of these.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: After White fails trying to negotiate with the Calvini brothers, he is put into a car. When the car enters a tunnel, the camera pans away as it shows the tunnel's end but no car comes from it and the ominous music makes it clear what happened.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Wexler's background mentions that he lost a daughter when she committed suicide which caused his marriage to be torn apart.
  • Smart People Play Chess: The Big Bad is shown teaching his son Go.
  • Spy Speak: Subverted when the hitman and his handler meet at an art gallery and have a stilted conversation about the painting they're looking at — it turns out they already know each other, and they were just making conversation.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Averted. Salinger and Whitman are both professionals more dedicated to finishing their investigation.
  • Vigilante Man: Tipping off The Mafia that the IBBC shot their old patriarch, and then attempting to do the same with the Syrians.
  • Villainous Demotivator: Wexler only helps Salinger because he knows he hasn't got long to live.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Thomas Schumer, after being poisoned, vomits messily all over the sidewalk before collapsing. Cyanide, the chemical used to kill him, does indeed cause vomiting, although the murder is also somewhat similar to the murder of Georgi Markov, who was infamously assassinated when a pellet filled with ricin was shot into his leg - Markov also began vomiting and suffered a fever before he was killed by the poison.
  • War for Fun and Profit: Calvini explains that the IBBC controls the debt produced from conflict.
    Umberto Calvini: The IBBC is a bank. Their objective isn't to control the conflict, it's to control the debt that the conflict produces. You see, the real value of a conflict, the true value, is in the debt that it creates. You control the debt, you control everything. You find this upsetting, yes? But this is the very essence of the banking industry, to make us all, whether we be nations or individuals, slaves to debt.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The IBBC engages in this quite a bit.