Much like 2007's Michael Clayton, The International is about one man's quest to get to the bottom of a conspiracy. In this case, that man is renegade Interpol agent Louis Salinger (Clive Owen), a Brit working on the other side of the pond because he had a meltdown of sorts while at Scotland Yard.
In the film's opening scenes, Salinger's partner has just gotten out of a secret meeting with a man who's told him about a deal about to go down between a Luxembourg bank and an Italian missile-guidance systems supplier. For years, Salinger has been trying to find evidence to convict the bank of dabbling in organized crime, and he's finally close to having solid evidence. Before his partner can walk across the street to give him the lowdown, however, the guy drops dead.
But Salinger still has a lead, and he brings in Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts), his higher-up at Interpol, to help him track the evidence, first to New York, then to Milan, where Umberto Calvini (Luca Barbareschi), the head of the missile-guidance system company, tips them off that there's one more supplier the bank will approach, a Turkish company known for selling weapons to several Middle Eastern countries. Then Calvini's assassinated.
After some good detective work, Salinger realizes the assassin is the bank's regular hit man and follows him to New York, where an incredible shootout takes place at the Guggenheim. The film doesn't end there, as Salinger must jet-set once more, this time to Istanbul, before he can get any final answers. There's never a dull moment, and even though the film takes its share of twists and turns, it's not too hard to follow. While Watts and Owen don't get quite enough screen time together, that's a minor quibble since their working relationship never crosses the line into a clichéd romance. And while platitudes such as "sometimes a man can meet his destiny on the road he took to avoid it" could come off as heavy-handed, this thinking-man's thriller earns the right to throw around such high-falutin' phrases.