The Interpreter

The Interpreter


Reviewed by: Josh Morrall

Sydney Pollack is a talented, although unreliable, director. The actors, who have been assembled here, appear in the occasional mediocre film, but this is no reflection of their talent, and it is the actors who carry The Interpreter.

The plot is one of high relevance in today's political climate and although never referencing the numerous terrorist acts that occurred in 2004, Sean Penn's character consciously notes that we have "had a tough year."

Copy picture

As soon as we learn there is to be an assassination, our intrigue is alerted and tension gained. This anxiety rises and falls throughout the film, but never disappears completely, which makes it enjoyable to watch.

However, a lot of the proceedings depend on faces in photographs and Pollack expects the audience to be able to keep up with the FBI investigator Tobin Keller's (Penn) train of thought. We are given brief flashbacks to jog our memory, but the plot still lacks translation and the excitement of the climactic twist suffers for it.

Nicole Kidman delivers a fine performance and a faultless accent as Silvia Broome, the interpreter. Whilst Tobin initially doubts Silvia's honesty, he and we are quick to ignore the numerous photos that exist of her toting automatic weapons and attending rebel rallies. She has our sympathies throughout and we have no reason to think otherwise, which results in the denouement lacking a certain truth.

Of course, this could have been Pollack's intention, and, if so, he succeeds, as we do not expect what is thrown at us, and yet Silvia does not seem to be the type to do what she eventually does. After all her convincing promises to Tobin that she "was a different person back then," it seems unnatural that there should be no hint in her actual character, lurking beneath the surface. Again, we are supposed to draw these conclusions for ourselves from the photographs.

Tobin is a wonderful contrast to Penn's character in his last film, The Assassination Of Richard Nixon, and the difference in the roles underlines his skill as an actor. Here, he is turned off yet alert, laid back yet involved and very likeable. We learn more about Silvia than we do about Tobin, but Tobin remains the audience's ally. We feel safe in his hands as he investigates the possibility of an assassination and only feel alienated when the director refuses to make things more understandable to those who do not have Secret Service training.

The occasional flourishes Pollack provides, such as interlacing the audio between different scenes and giving us an array of aerial shots (to connote time bearing down as well as the irrelevancy of it all), add depth to an otherwise superficial film.

The Interpreter has a number of exciting shocks and the occasional emotional exchange, but otherwise an empty numbness pervades. The script is sharp, the pace quick, the performances delivered well, but that extra edge is missing.

With nothing original to speak of, other than the fact that the filmmakers were allowed to shoot (not literally) inside the United Nations headquarters in New York, the plot has nowhere to go. It sounds like a great idea, but once visualised there is little to be done. Pollack has made it as well as might be expected, but avoids adding his comment on the state of the nation, which instantly flattens its horizons.

A missed interpretation of the material, perhaps? It certainly looks that way.

Reviewed on: 18 Apr 2005
Share this with others on...
The Interpreter packshot
A political thriller at the UN headquarters in New York.
Amazon link

Read more The Interpreter reviews:

Angus Wolfe Murray ****1/2
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


Search database: