Directed by Sydney Pollack.
Written by Charles Randolph, Scott Frank and Steven Zaillian.
Starring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn.
Release Year: 2005
Review Date: 4/24/05
"The Interpreter", the first film from the
great Sydney Pollack ("Out of Africa", "Tootsie") in about five
years, seems to have a lot going on but ultimately was just kind of
blah. Or ehh. Nicole Kidman plays the title role, an
interpreter named Silvia who works at the United Nations and is one
of only a handful of citizens that can speak a small African
country's dialect...the SAME dialect that she overhears two men
speaking one night as they plot an assassination of a genocidal
overlord making a speech at the U.N. in a few days.
Enter the Foreign Dignitary Protection
Service, an arm of the Secret Service led by Tobin Keller (Sean
Penn) and his partner, Dot Woods (Catherine Keener). Assigned
to the case because they are entrusted with protecting the man that
might be assassinated, Keller and Woods begin investigating Silvia
and her shady background, and they are led deeper into a ring of
criminals and deceit and blah blah blah.
Pollack, who also plays Keller's boss in the
film, directs some very riveting sequences, from the violent intro
to a terrorist bombing (and the moves leading to that bombing) to
exchanges between Silvia and Keller that range from chilly to funny
to taut to heartwarming. "The Interpreter" is also aided by
the fact that it was shot at the real U.N. building in New York,
which I think is the first time they have ever allowed a film to be
shot there...just scenes that take place on the U.N.'s main floor
were riveting to me. The political aspects of what is going on
in the film ring true with what is happening in real life in some
African nations, if not the world--the once-heroic ruler that is now
playing the role of dictator, killing his own people for political
gain. This is always going to be an interesting film topic,
and "The Interpreter" does a good job of giving us the political
backstory without playing the role of your CBS Evening News.
The film's failing comes in not sticking to
its agenda. By this, I mean that the film's writers just can't
make a film that is a straight political thriller, they HAVE to give
us a reason for the two stars to have a friendship, or an attempt at
one, while this whole "assassination attempt" is being plotted.
I'll give them credit--at least the leads' relationship is not
sexual in any way. No, it's a shared loss, Silvia with her
brother and Keller with his recently-deceased wife, that brings the
twosome closer, and Keller's dead wife in particular brings the
movie down a full notch on its own. They could have just given
us the first Keller scene in the movie, where he tosses his wedding
ring away and continues to down shots, and that would have painted
the picture of "depressed cop that needs to work to forget his
sorrow." But, instead, we get five scenes like that, making an
already-long film (130 minutes) feel even longer. Worse, no
one can even make the argument that these scenes really add much to
the overall product...the film's not even about the Penn character
There were other little things that nagged
on me--do you think that a murder suspect could get out of answering
questions about other suspects with "It's personal" or "It's none of
your business"??? Well, the Kidman character uses these and
more throughout the film to dodge the questioning of Keller and his
team, odd given that we are talking about the possible assassination
of a foreign leader. But it was mostly the subplot of "The
Interpreter" that upset me the most; if this movie had just stuck to
its guns and given us the generally-interesting storyline of the
visiting African leader and why someone wants him dead, I would have
been very happy with the final product. But, I guess
sometimes, you can never leave well enough alone.
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard