The Interpreter (2005)
Running time: 128 minutes (2 hours, 8 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for violence, some sexual content, and brief strong language
DIRECTOR: Sydney Pollack
WRITERS: Charles Randolph, Scott Frank, and Steven Zallian; from a story by Martin Stellman and Brian Ward
PRODUCERS: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, and Kevin Misher
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Darius Khondji
EDITOR: William Steinkamp
COMPOSER: James Newton Howard
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Sean Penn, Catherine Keener, Jesper Christensen, Yvan Attal, Earl Cameron, George Harris, Michael Wright, Clyde Kusatsu, Eric Keenleyside, Hugo Speer, Maz Jobrani, Yusuf Gatewood, Curtiss I’Cook, and Byron Utley
The subject of this movie review is The Interpreter, a 2005 political thriller from director Sydney Pollack. This is the final film directed by Pollack, who died in 2008 at the age of 73. The Interpreter focuses on an interpreter who overhears an assassination plot and the US Secret Service agent assigned to investigate her allegations.
Silvia Broome (Nicole Kidman) is a translator at the United Nations, who accidentally overhears the plot to assassinate an African despot scheduled to speak before the U.N. General Assembly. With the words, “The Teacher will never leave this room alive,” Silvia’s world is turned upside down, as she becomes the target of mysterious thrillers who know she overheard the whispered conspiracy. Still, authorities have doubts about the validity of her story, including Tobin Keller, (Sean Penn), a federal agent assigned to protect dignitaries visiting the U.S. Tobin is eventually assigned to both protect Silvia and to unravel the mystery of the assassination attempt and its seeming connection to Silvia’s past. Will Silvia’s reticence about discussing her past and Tobin’s determination to uncover what he believes she is hiding lead to the assassination of a foreign leader on American soil?
Academy Award-winning director Sydney Pollack’s (Out of Africa) The Interpreter is part contrived melodrama and part riveting suspense story, with the latter winning out to make this a thoroughly entertaining thriller. The characters’ personal histories and tragedies occupy much of the narrative time, and their personality traits both define how their relationship and the mystery of the assassination will be resolved. But that’s mostly window dressing for a rather nice staid, adult thriller. The Interpreter lacks the car chases and has very few gunfights and explosions – the two elements that denote most Hollywood action thrillers meant to draw in teenage boys and young men as much (if not more so) as they are meant to attract older audiences looking for involved drama and quality acting. The Interpreter certainly has evocative drama and both Kidman and Penn are excellent (and award-winning) actors, and while this isn’t their best work, they certainly try to give us something different – just enough to make this more than a run-of-the-mill tense drama.
Every time the film seems as if it will slip into being ordinary, it does something surprising, and while it doesn’t have the intensity that would make it a great film, it does have the smooth charm and the kind of engaging plot that makes it an enjoyable film. The script, co-written by two of Hollywood’s top screenwriters, Scott Frank and Steven Zallian (an Oscar winner for Schindler’s List), is novelistic in its approach to character, situation, and plot. Sydney Pollack uses it to carry us through a complex web of private tragedy, delicate political affiliations, and international intrigue. At the same time, it also gives us a small, but fierce glance at the sectarian violence rampant throughout some of Africa. That’s a lot for your money.
6 of 10
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Updated: Thursday, June 20, 2013
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