Director Sydney Pollack delivers megawatt star power, high gloss, and political passion to The Interpreter, his first thriller since The Firm. With Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn delivering smooth, understated performances, t... more »he film more closely recalls Pollack's 1975 Robert Redford/Faye Dunaway paranoid thriller Three Days of the Condor, trading conspiratorial politicians for potential assassination in the United Nations General Assembly (this being the first film ever granted permission to use actual U.N. locations). Kidman plays a U.N. interpreter who inadvertently overhears hints of a plot to kill the reviled, tyrannical leader of her (fictional) African homeland; Penn is the Secret Service agent assigned to protect her, or to determine her role (if any) in the assassination scenario. By distancing itself from real-life politics, The Interpreter softens its potential impact as a thriller about contemporary globalization and threats to international peace, but the Penn/Kidman personal drama (between two people who gain a deep appreciation for shared anguish, without being artificially forced into romance) adds a richly human dimension to Pollack's expert handling of the thriller elements of a complex yet easily-followed plot. Indie-film stalwart Catherine Keener shines in her supporting role as Penn's sarcastic by sympathetic Secret Service partner. --Jeff Shannon« less
Melissa Niksic | Chicago, IL United States | 04/24/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
""The Interpreter" is an excellent movie. Nicole Kidman plays Silvia Broome, an African-born U.N. interpreter who overhears a conversation about a plot to assassinate the dictator of Matobo. Federal agent Tobin Keller (Sean Penn) is then assigned to protect Silvia and crack the case.
This is a great suspense thriller with an interesting and witty plot. It's also a psychological drama of sorts: Tobin and Silvia are both coping with personal losses while trying to deal with the stressful situation at hand. Kidman and Penn are both amazing Oscar-winning actors, and they turn in amazing performances in this film.
My favorite thing about "The Interpreter" is that it is the only feature film that has ever been shot on location inside the United Nations. It was great to see the details of these famous and somewhat intimidating government buildings and watch this exciting story unfold. (There are also some really great scenes shot in the streets of New York as well.)
The only thing that bugged me about this movie was the ending. Silvia kind of flips out at the end of the film, and although she definitely has clear motivation for what she does, I had a hard time buying into the fact that she wigged out to such an extreme, and also that her little speech to the dictator appeared to have such a profound effect on him. The story wraps up pretty nicely at the end, though, so that one little inconsistency can easily be forgiven.
I highly recommend this film to anyone who enjoys a good suspense thriller: good movies are hard to find these days, and "The Interpreter" is definitely one you don't want to miss."
The First Commercial Movie Filmed Inside the United Nations
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 10/20/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
""The Interpreter" has the distinction of being the first commercial movie to be filmed inside the United Nations building in New York City. The UN Charter prohibits commercial use of the building, but director Sydney Pollack was able to get permission to film from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on the grounds that the film's themes support the UN mission. It helps that "The Interpreter" was able to film on location inside the UN, as that building's huge open spaces and natural light improve the film's aesthetics considerably and would have been impossible to recreate. The premise is that Silvia Broome (Nicole Kidman), a simultaneous interpreter at the UN, overhears a conversation about an attempt on the life of Edmond Zuwanie (Earl Cameron), President of the fictional African nation of Matobo, who is scheduled to give a speech before the General Assembly. Secret Service Agent Tobin Keller (Sean Penn) of the Dignitary Protection Squad, and his partner Agent Woods (Catherine Keener), are assigned to protect Zuwanie and to investigate Silvia's claim. Even when it becomes clear that her life is threatened, Silvia's politics concerning Zuwanie and her involvement in the drama are still suspect.
Silvia Broome and Tobin Keller are not what I'd call well-written characters, but Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn give them more weight than lesser actors would. Silvia has a bizarre, unidentifiable accent. The character has one British and one white African parent. A South African accent would seem appropriate, but that's not what she has. The Matoban language "Ku", which Silvia translates, was created for the film at the South African Language Institute in London. It is a cross between Swahili, commonly spoken in East Africa, and Shona, a language of Southwestern Africa. "The Interpreter" is a suspense/thriller, so what the characters and audience don't know is what makes it work. Edmond Zuwanie's enemies may want him dead, but his supporters also want to prevent his speech at the UN, so it's anybody's guess which camp the assassin might come from. Silvia Broome is far from disinterested in the politics of Matobo, her home nation, but is she acting on her interests or her ideals? Those are the questions that keep everyone guessing. "The Interpreter" isn't a great thriller. It didn't have a script -or rather, the script was written as they were shooting, and it shows. But if you're looking for a reasonably entertaining film featuring talented stars, "The Interpreter" fills the bill. 3 ½ stars.
The DVD (Universal 2005): Bonus features include a less probable Alternate Ending (3 minutes), 3 deleted scenes (2 minutes), 4 featurettes, and an audio commentary. In "Sydney Pollack at Work: From Concept to Cutting Room" (10 minutes), the director talks about what he likes about directing, the challenges of filmmaking, and shooting this film without a script. "Interpreting Pan & Scan vs. Widescreen" (5 minutes) is Pollack's explanation of why he objects to pan and scan. "The Interpreter" is the first film Pollack has shot in wide screen in a long time, as he felt compelled to shoot in full screen format because his movies were being panned and scanned for television and video. "The Ultimate Movie Set: The United Nations" (8 minutes) talks about shooting inside the UN building. "A Day in the Life of Real Interpreters" (8 minutes) is an interesting look at the challenges of simultaneous interpretation, explained by Diana Liao, Chief of the Interpretation Service at the UN, and Brigitte Andreassier-Pearl, Chief of the French section of the Interpretation Service at the UN. The audio commentary by director Sydney Pollack is sporadic, with long lulls, but it is interesting. Pollack discusses the intention of the scenes on which he comments, what he added after shooting and took out in editing and why, story, locations, and some technical challenges. Subtitles are available for the film in Spanish and French. Captions are available in English. Dubbing is available in French."
Clearly up for interpretation
Heather A. Buettner | Los Angeles | 12/31/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'm surprised there are so many so-so reviews of this movie - I thought it was really good. The plot was pretty hard to follow at times, but Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn were great, and there were times when the suspense was almost too much to take. The twist at the end was totally unexpected - all along I thought I knew what was going on, and who the bad guy was, but that was completely shattered in the last scenes. The only reason I'm not giving it five stars is that it was a little long and convoluted - I kept thinking the movie was about to be over with, and then a whole new plotline would come up."
Kidman and Penn Carry The Movie Well
GameraRocks | Gillsville, GA USA | 10/20/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Interpreter, I thought, was a very interesting story about assasination plots within the U.N. and whehter or not people can believe the threat as true. Nicole Kidman gave a great performance as the lead character in this movie. It's not flat acting seen, but just the personality of the character who is very stressed out at this point of the movie. Sean Penn also did a great job as the agent trying to figure out the truth. It being filmed in the U.N. makes this film really unique and realistic, especially with the protestors outside that add an extra touch to this film. Overall, this movie is worth seeing. It may not be the greatest movie created, but it is still a very interesting one if you like good drama and stories about the government."
Pollack's directing and editing make 'The Interpreter' worth
Andy Orrock | Dallas, TX | 09/01/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I think in many directors' hands, "The Interpreter" would be run-of-the-mill stuff. Thankfully, Sydney Pollack isn't run-of-the-mill quality. He's crafted a really suspenseful and - in my mind - realistic thriller that keeps you fully engaged throughout the entire film. [And, I might add, Pollack - as usual - acts here as well and he's as engaging on camera as he is talented behind it.]
Now, I've never been a big Nicole Kidman fan ("To Die For" aside), and the coquettish whisper in which she delivers every line in this film is certainly distracting. Thankfully, Pollack gets solid performances from Catherine Keener, Sean Pean, George Harris (on a roll after "Layer Cake") and the Danish actor Jesper Christensen. Christensen, in particular, makes the film in my estimation. Is he a good guy or a bad guy, you're never quite sure. [In fact, in the 'Deleted Scenes' on the DVD, you can see Pollack stripped out a couple of scenes that give away some of Christensen's character and motivations too early. That's a master touch because the end product keeps you guessing without losing any of the narrative drive.]
At the heart of tale woven by Pollack is the story of African dictator 'Zuwanie,' as portrayed by the regal (and then-88-year-old!!) Earl Cameron, a dictator in the Mobutu mold (colonial liberator slowly morphing to repressive, gun-toting dictator). Will he be killed on an upcoming trip to the UN (as Kidman's character has overheard) or will a staged and failed assassination attempt consolidate and strengthen his hand back home (as Harris' 'Kuman-Kuman' suggests)? Again, Pollack's editing is what keeps the balls in the air on this question and it'll keep you hooked until the end."