The Interpreter movie review, Sydney Pollack, Nicole Kidman, Sean Penn, Catherine Keener, Jesper Christensen, Yvan Attal. Review by Rob Blackwelder ©SPLICEDwire
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A scene from 'The Interpreter'
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"The Interpreter"
2.5 stars
128 minutes | Rated: R
WIDE: Friday, April 22, 2005
Directed by Sydney Pollack

Starring Nicole Kidman, Sean Penn, Catherine Keener, Jesper Christensen, Yvan Attal, Earl Cameron, George Harris, Michael Wright, Maz Jobrani, Eric Keenleyside

  • Sydney Pollack
  • Nicole Kidman
  • Sean Penn
  • Catherine Keener
  • Yvan Attal

  •  LINKS for this film
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    Gripping assassination thriller set at the UN, 'The Interpreter' has heady themes, a few Hollywood loopholes

    By Rob Blackwelder

    Layers of riveting intrigue build toward a finale weighed down with logistical loopholes in "The Interpreter," a political thriller about an assassination plot overheard by a translator (Nicole Kidman) at the United Nations.

    The circumstances of her accidental eavesdropping are a little suspect as well -- she just happened to be in a sound booth late at night, where a microphone inexplicably left on just happened to pick up a conspiratorial conversation in a regional dialect she and only a handful of others speak outside of the fictional African country of her birth.

    Couple this with a covered-up past of rebel activity aimed at the dictator she claims will be targeted during a controversial upcoming address on the floor of the U.N., and it's no surprise that the Secret Service agent assigned to investigate (Sean Penn) finds her revelation to be dubious at best.

    Although the milieu is unusual, "The Interpreter" is largely a variation on a standard Hollywood template about a brooding cop assigned to protect a pretty witness. With a less talented cast and a less interesting director than Sydney Pollack ("Havana," "The Firm"), it could have easily been dumbed down into an action movie cocktail with a romantic chaser.

    But Kidman and Penn vividly yet gracefully charge their characters with resonant emotional distress -- both due to devastating recent deaths of loved ones -- that comes into play as explosive new threats manifest, skeletons are forced out of closets and scarring psychological twists turn inside out the specter of an assassination at the United Nations.

    More significantly, the U.N. isn't just a backdrop. (Nor is it a set -- for the first time, the world body allowed filming in its chambers, which makes a significant atmospheric impact.) Pollack infuses the film with a dizzyingly authentic sense of political instability in the world. Not only the lives of the characters hang in the balance here, but also entire nations and their peoples. This approach also affords the film an interesting underbeat regarding the political perception of race. Kidman's character is white, obviously, but her identity is entirely wrapped up in the subsistence of her African homeland and its culture.

    Her work as an interpreter isn't as well developed, and it's just such vagaries that lead to suspension of disbelief problems in the film's climax. Suffice it to say all-access passes seem suspiciously easy to come by at the U.N.

    But despite inherent implausibilities, the tension in these scenes is increasingly gripping and increasingly driven by passion rather than conspiracy, which makes the characters and underlying themes seem all the more true, even if actual events are considerably harder to believe.

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