The Interpreter

The Interpreter


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

She has a gift for languages, which brings her to the UN. She wants to make a difference. She is idealistic in that single-minded, dedicated manner associated with freedom fighters.

Silvia (Nicole Kidman) remains an enigma. When Tobin Keller (Sean Penn) begins to investigate her, he is faced with a blank sheet.

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"Who are you?"

She is beautiful, blonde, lissom and lithe. She lives alone, has no lover, rides a Vespa throughout New York and works all day, providing instantaneous translation for delegates. She has an odd accent, which, like everything else about her, is difficult to pin down.

Where would she be in another actor's care? Certainly in a different place, because the performance is riveting. Kidman has the sensitivity of a fawn and the tenacity of a dingo. At this moment when less is cool, she bucks the trend. Emotionally she engages fully at all times and almost by stealth, certainly by the sweat of her brow, has relieved Meryl Streep of her crown.

The film is an old-fashioned political thriller, directed by a master of the genre, Sydney Pollack (Three Days Of The Condor, Presumed Innocent, The Firm), which may lack Michael Mann's visual flare, but delivers tension in easily digestible chunks and is so well made that it is easy to overlook plot flaws in order to be swept away by the adrenaline rush.

There are shades of Klute and Stakeout here, probably others too, since the paranoid stalker theme is hardly original. It begins with a classic Hitchcock moment. Silvia overhears a whispered conversation in an obscure African dialect, concerning the planned assassination of a once-revered, now despised leader - why does Robert Mugabe come to mind? She believes that she was seen by the plotters and is now in mortal danger.

At this point the full weight of post 9/11 home security is brought to bear, which includes Keller and Dot Woods (Catherine Keener) as investigative minders associated with the FBI.

"Who are you?"

Did Silvia make it up? Does she have an agenda that goes beyond becoming the bait in a far bigger trap? What is her connection to Africa?

For once, Penn takes a back seat. He is supportive of Kidman, rather than dominant. Keller has an interesting, yet ultimately irrelevant, appendage. His estranged wife was recently killed in a car crash, leaving him numb and vulnerable. This is not macho cop country, not for him anyway. It is head down, do the work, staunch the tears.

Although the nuance of fear is all in the storyline, the interpreter remains the focal point. It is Silvia's life on the line and Kidman lifts the film onto a higher plain.

Reviewed on: 14 Apr 2005
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A political thriller at the UN headquarters in New York.
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Read more The Interpreter reviews:

Josh Morrall ***
Scott Macdonald *1/2

Director: Sydney Pollack

Writer: Charles Randolph, Scott Frank, Steven Zaillian

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Sean Penn, Catherine Keener, Jesper Christensen, Yvan Attal, Earl Cameron, George Harris, Michael Wright, Clyde Kusatsu, Eric Keenleyside, Hugo Speer

Year: 2005

Runtime: 128 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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