I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Filmmakers are always looking for real-life stories to draw on for material, and liberal filmmakers are always looking for abuses of the system to make movies about that'll get their audiences riled up in rightous indignation, and liberal filmmakers who also have commercial instincts are going to look for ways to make socially relevant material digestible and entertaining. So I'm not surprised that a world-class filmmaker like Tom Tykwer would decide to make a movie about the political and social abuses of global finance, and I'm not surprised that he and his collaborators would decide to do it within the framework of a global espionage thriller. And I'm not really surprised that it resulted in a well-meaning, half-baked movie that feels like the bastard spawn of Robert Ludlum and Naomi Wolf.
It's a handsome movie, shot in and around great locations in Berlin, Milan, and New York, but it barely has a pulse; Clive Owen is on autopilot and Naomi Watts barely registers (to be fair, her character has next to nothing to do besides tag along with Owen and get yelled at by The Chief). The movie's centerpiece, a shoot-out at the Guggenheim, is fun, but even it defies logic (spoiler alert!) as Owen, trying to open the veil of secrecy around a powerful bank, tries to arrest their key assassin - and immediately the bank's henchmen launch an insane gun battle in one of the most famous museums in the world? Way to maintain a low profile, guys. And then the scene ends on a note of total confusion as Owen strolls out unscathed - I must have missed something. Of course, that's after a prominent Italian politician delivers a line something along the lines of "I'll tell you everything I know about this powerful and evil bank - but pardon me while I take a hatless ride through Dealey Plaza first."
Ultimately, The International is done in by its own self-importance, its leaden feeling of carrying the burdens of the world on its shoulders, but with no real sense of complexity or novelty, which is odd for a movie from the director of such weird, offbeat films as Run Lola Run and Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. Better luck next time.