Tykwer is such an odd duck. Nothing he does has any formal, generic, or thematic consistency, yet there is always just enough of interest to keep you watching. This movie sometimes wants to be a postmodern you-can’t-fight-the-system-because-you-are-the-system technothriller like Syriana, but the premises in which that branch of the story is rooted are utterly flimsy. Other times it looks like we’re headed for an anguished love-during-wartime thing between Clive Owen and Naomi Watts, but that goes no further than a fond caress on the cheek. Confusingly, a corrupt arms dealer and his corrupt sons seem to turn from bad guys to good guys at one point. Very late in the game, there’s even a half-hearted attempt to address the issue of German reunification! And throughout we’re treated to dialogue like “Sometimes the hardest thing in life is to know which bridge to cross and which to burn”; “We cannot control the things life does to us. They are done before you know it, and once they are done, they make you do other things”; and “A man may meet his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.” That last twice, because it’s important.
It’s possible that Tykwer didn’t have the time or energy to worry about any kind of thematic coherence due to the fact that he’s here almost completely consumed with his location lust (Instanbul, Berlin, Milan, Lyon, New York), architecture fetish, and set piece setups. Given the movie’s ostensible thesis–organizations are corrupt–it’s weird that Tykwer so clearly loves lingering in the soaring atria and mouthwateringly furnished boardrooms of banks and arms manufacturers. Provided I could dress like the Calvini brothers and work in their corporate headquarters on Lake Garza, I’d seriously consider getting into the landmine business myself. Tykwer’s movie may actually wind up recruiting viewers to become evil corporate geniuses! Looks like way more fun than being Clive Owen, who spends most of the movie doing dumb things, saying dumb things, getting clocked, and failing to make out with Naomi Watts.