Review Date: April 22, 2005
Director: Sydney Pollack
Writer: Charles Randolph, Scott Frank, Steve Zaillian
Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Kevin Misher
Nicole Kidman as Sylvia
Sean Penn as Tobin
Catherine Keener as Dot
A cutey-pie United Nations interpreter’s life is turned upside-down when she overhears a couple of people talking about murdering an African leader inside the UN. It isn’t long before she is being questioned by a dour secret service agent, who initially doesn’t believe the woman, but after a couple of odd incidents, starts to trust her…kind of. A Sydney Pollack thriller ensues.
Phew…finally! A solid, top-to-bottom movie coming out of Hollywood that isn’t a remake, a rehash, a TV show, a sequel or a rapper’s first steps into the movie biz. THE INTERPRETER is an “old school” thriller that one-ups most suspense flicks by balancing the basic elements from such films, including a good mystery, suspicious characters, clues, red herrings, taut direction and action, with something that is rare in any sort of movie nowadays: character development. That’s right, not only does this film feature a pretty darn good yarn about a possible murder plot against a leader to speak at the United Nations, but it tosses a couple of three-dimensional characters into its lead spots, such that the audience is actually investing themselves in these people as “human beings”, as opposed to your basic puppets being strung along by a wired screenwriter. The two leads in question are Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman, and despite the former coming off like a grade-A jackass in the latest edition of the Oscars a few months ago, both actors come through in their respective roles, with Kidman, in particular, supplying us with yet another well-rounded character presentation. That said, she did seem to let her “hair” do the acting in a couple of scenes, but seeing as she nailed that sexy African accent…it was all good. Unfortunately for her, awesome actress Katherine Keener seemed to be tossed into the movie for pure “comical effect”, and even though she did deliver as such, it was a little sad to see her relegated to third banana (and then some) in this movie.
The film also takes its time with the story, slowly intertwining the many political elements that make up its complex plotline, with moments of characters interacting, a number of effective suspense sequences and engaging direction by Sydney Pollack, who along with an ideal score for such a film, shows that he knows a thing or two about making these suckers click. Granted, the mechanics of the story did get a little confusing near the end (thanks to the small flashbacks, I hung in there though), and the film isn’t likely to strike too many chords of interest with the less-than-18 crowds, but I for one am glad to have experienced this film, not so much because it’s a superlative movie (although it’s damn solid), but because it differs so greatly from all the recycled crap that we’ve been getting so far this year. See it if the trailer intrigued you, see it if you enjoyed stuff like THE SIEGE and the Jack Ryan movies, see it if you like either Penn or Kidman, and see it if you like your thrillers with a political tip. Oh, and thanks to the writers for not throwing some half-assed romance into a film which clearly didn’t require one (although the ending was a nice touch), and thanks also for effectively developing the characters enough for me to actually “gulp a little gulp” during certain scenes of emotional rapport. Oh, the film also tosses a “message” about world leaders out there, which was an interesting aside and fun for Poli-Sci graduates to mull over.
(c) 2016 Berge Garabedian