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August 22, 2009
The International Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
19/2/200918/8/2009Sony PicturesTom Tykwer
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4Dolby TrueHD 5.1MA15+Clive Owen

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Showing a badge and gun in the Guggenheim.

If you're like me and download almost every movie trailer released on various websites then you would likely recall the rather impressive trailer for The International released in late 2008. At least I do, and I was keen to check it out, but before I knew it the film had been and gone from cinemas having grossed a pretty disappointing $US60 million worldwide, which was just over the films production budget. A few weeks ago I received the movie on Blu-Ray for review, and I was happy to have a look at this dramatic thriller.

The International tells the story of Interpol Agent Louis Salinger (Clive Owen) and Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts) who 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.

Directed by Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run), The International is a movie that puts brains over braun for the most part. While thw film could have easily moved from a thriller to an action movie the director has stayed the course and keeps you thinking from start to finish. Indeed, when the movie does come to a fairly large shootout it actually comes as a bit of a disappointment. I'm not talking about the actual shootout itself as that is quite thrilling, but simply that the film changes tone so much to become a 'bog standard' actioner for a while. Still, it's not long before we're back onto a more dramatic tone and the movie remains pretty tense as it heads towards the somewhat disappointing and rather dull conclusion.

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Naomi Watts, Clive Owen checking bullet holes.
After watching this film it's not hard to imagine Clive Owen in the role of James Bond, a role which he was widely tipped to be handed when Pierce Brosnan left before Daniel Craig was announced to take over the role. Without that gig Clive Owen has been able to expand his acting abilities to roles in movies such as Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Sin City and even comedies such as The Pink Panther where, funnily enough, he plays Agent 006! But The International is a role which could be likened to the British super-spy James Bond with a similar tone, but fewer action sequences. His performance as Louis Salinger is quite impressive although it did seem a little monotoned and flat at times.

The supporting cast including Naomi Watts as Louis's friend and co-worker as District Attorney Eleanor Whitman, Haluk Bilginer as Ahmet Sunay and Armin Mueller-Stahl as Wilhelm Wexler are all impressive. For me though it was the variety of locations that appear throughout this film that are also a highlight with some breathtaking buildings from around the world used to film The International.

This isn't the best thriller, but it is very well put together, quite engrossing, and contains a few set pieces that will have you on the edge of your seat. Despite the somewhat disappointing ending this is a movie worth checking out.

Presented in the films original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 The International comes to Blu-Ray encoded in the AVC MPEG-4 codec at 1080p and the presentation truly is impressive. To be honest I haven't been overly impressed with many of Sony Pictures recent Blu-Ray efforts, but this movie certainly looks the part. The film has a natural look with a light covering of grain but with no dirt, marks or scratches evident - exactly what you would expect from such a recent theatrical release.

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Clive Owen in The International.
At times the image is a little on the soft side, and the colours can seem a little muted, but overall this is impressive, and certainly a vast improvement on the already impressive DVD release. One need only look at a scene from 1:08:21-1:08:37 when some extremely light snow is falling - you would be hard pressed to notice it on DVD, but the smallest of flakes are visible due to the 1080p resolution.

Audio on this disc is highlighted with a rather impressive English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track. There is plenty of action in this movie from gunplay, to car chases which always come up quite well in a lossless audio track such as this. Where this movie shines though is the ambient audio. Crowds surround you, car engines rev and horns beep when on the streets. It's such an immersive experience. Adding to the great audio is the impressive music score from Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek, and director Tom Tykwer.

There are two other audio tracks on this Blu-Ray disc, an Italian Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track which is equal to the English track, and also an English Descriptive Audio track which is encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1 at 640kbps. Subtitles are provided in English, English SDH, Italian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hindi, Norwegian, and Swedish. Commentary subtitles are also provided in English, Italian and Dutch. We've sampled the English track and it is accurate, has good pacing, and uses an easy-to-read font.

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Interrogating one of the bankers.
The International wasn't a box office smash, but its good to see Sony Pictures still putting quite a bit of effort into this Blu-Ray disc.

Cine-Chat: This is a BD-Live chat so you can chat with your friends through the disc while you're watching the movie. Thankfully there's a nice 2 minute video showing you what you can do with Cine-Chat. Now, if I had some friends that have this disc we could try it out!!

The International Experience Picture-in-Picture: This model puts a small window in the bottom right hand corner of the screen which show interviews and on-set footage. The commentary is very interesting with some great insight into the filmmaking process. It would have been nice if the window could be a little larger as it only covers about 1/16th of the screen.

Commentary with Director Tom Tykwer and Writer Eric Singer: This is quite an interesting commentary with both participants offering a considerable amount of information about the filming, script and inspiration for the movie being the 1980-1990's BCCI bank which did indeed have a large linking with terrorism, arms deals and drug cartels.

Salinger & Whitman - Extended Scene (11:23/HD): This is a very lengthy extended scene and while it was likely cut for pacing, it actually fleshes out a little more of the storyline. It's a shame this couldn't have been re-incorporated via seamless beanching. The HD video isn't quite up to the standards of the final movie, and the audio is a somewhat muted 2 channel Dolby Digital effort, but the result is still impressive.

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Thinking about the next move.
Making the International (30:07/HD): This is a great look at the making of this movie. It discusses the inspiration for the movie as the BCCI Bank, getting the director, writing the script and on-set filming including the locations and set-building.

Shooting at the Guggenheim (6:32): This is a brilliant look at the work that went into re-creating 3 levels of the Guggenheim Museum for the shootour sequence in the movie. The only disappointment is that this is only in Standard Definition.

The Architecture of The International (6:13/HD): One of the highlights of this movie is the glorious locations and buildings used for filming around the world. In this promotional piece the filmmakers discuss their choice of buildings for this movie and even the choice to film in 65mm to show off these buildings at their finest.

The Autostadt (5:04/HD): This brief featurette looks at filming the movie at The Autostadt buildings, which is a Volkswagen 'Theme Park' of sorts.

Trailers (13:44/HD): Trailers for "Blu-Ray is High Definition", Angels & Demons, The Taking of Pelham 123, Fired Up!, 2012, Year One and Ghostbusters.

I actually found The International to be an impressive movie with great characters and acting and a compelling story. A few decent action sequences keep the pace up, but even non-action fans will still enjoy this thriller. Worth a look.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Sony Pictures. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.