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Cinema In Focus: ‘The International’

Murderous bankers and governments who look the other way lead this intriguing new film.

2 Stars — Disturbing

It is hard to make bankers world-class villains. Even though there is a lot of frustration with the mortgage crisis, very few of us think that a bank and its officers are into world domination. Instead, we simply recognize that greed has once more undermined the economic stability that commercial lending is meant to provide. However, in the fictional world of the International Bank of Business & Commerce we find murderous bankers and complicit governments. Written by Eric Singer and directed by Tom Tykwer, The International is the story of this domination.

The unlikely hero fighting against such dominion is Louis Salinger (Clive Owen), an Interpol investigator who has partnered with Manhattan District Attorney Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts) to solve irregularities and murderous cover-ups by the bank. Having had his wife and children murdered when he got too close to exposing the bank when he was an officer for Scotland Yard, Salinger is obsessed with bringing the bank and its officers to justice.

The villain and bank president, Jonas Skarssen (Ulrich Thomsen), is an amoral utilitarian who has created an international web of businesses, governments and intelligence agencies who all support his plan. With everyone tacitly involved, the bank operates with immunity, including assassinating anyone who will not do business with them.

The ultimate example of this is Umberto Calvini (Luca Barbareschi), an arms dealer who will not do business with IBBC. Believing that his sons will reverse that decision, the bank hires an assassin to kill him. Enigmatically named “The Consultant” (Bryan F. O’Byrne), Salinger hopes the assassin provides the missing connection through whom he can hold the bank accountable.

We won’t tell how all the intrigue unexpectedly ends, or the ironic presentation at the end of the film during the credits, but it is obvious there are those who believe that business is, or at least could be, corrupt. It is this distrust that causes the artists to create a film like this. But when the plot goes beyond reasonable belief, it does little to help us determine the real accountability that real banks need. That would be a film worth seeing!

Discussion:

» Did you find the argument that a bank would get into revolutions only to own the debt believable? Why or why not?

» The newspaper articles displayed during the credits imply just what Skarssen said — if he were to be killed another banker would take his place and the bank would go on with its evil scheme. Do you believe that would be true in real life?

» Why do you think this assassin was willing to kill? Do you think his leg handicap had anything to do with it, was he sociopathic, or do you think it was just another example of greed where he was willing to kill for money?

Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church on the Mesa. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.

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