Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Deleted Scenes. Alternate Ending.
Audio Commentary with Director Sydney Pollack. ‘A Day in
the Life of Real Interpreters’ featurette. Sydney Pollack
at Work: From Concept to Cutting Room. Interpreting Pan &
Scan vs Widescreen. The Ultimate Movie Set: The United Nations.
SYDNEY Pollack has directed some fine thrillers in his time (Three
Days of the Condor, The Firm) so it should come as little surprise
to find that his latest, The Interpreter, is such a classy affair.
Powered by two high-calibre central performances from Nicole
Kidman and Sean Penn, the film functions as both a taut conspiracy
thriller with plenty to say about current world politics, as well
as a convincing exploration of grief and how people deal with
Kidman stars as the interpreter of the title, the South African-born
Silvia Broome, who overhears a plot to assassinate a controversial
African leader during a high-profile visit to the UN in New York.
Enter Secret Service agent, Tobin Keller (Penn), a dogged investigator
struggling to cope with the recent death of his wife, who is intitially
sceptical of Broome's claims.
As the deadline for the African leader's visit gets closer, however,
events conspire to convince Keller that the threat is real and
that Broome, herself, could be a target for the killers.
Although based around a fictional African state (Matoba), the
various political aspects of Pollack's thriller could easily translate
to both current and past world events.
Much is made of dictatorial policies and of hushed-up massacres
which automatically bear comparison with current news headlines
and the events outlined in movies such as Hotel
While the various observations on
the role of the UN (effective or otherwise) could just as easily
be taken as a candid reflection on the attitude of present politicians.
Yet Pollack is wily enough not to make his film appear too preachy,
preferring to make such comments by exploring the motivations
of his characters - a ploy which, equally, gives Kidman and Penn
plenty of scope to flex their acting muscles.
This is, at the end of the day, a thriller dictated by brawn
more than braun, even though it contains at least two stand-out
Of the performances, Penn is typically colossal as Keller, a
man torn apart by loss, whose relationship with Broome forces
him to consider the power of forgiveness.
While Kidman is just as strong as a similarly conflicted character
- one who bears plenty of scars from her past but who remains
determined to let diplomacy do her talking even if it places her
life in danger.
The relationship between the two opposites is given plenty of
time to breathe and turns out to be quietly affecting.
Yet they are surrounded by a quality cast, including an under-used
Catherine Keener as Keller's partner and Pollack, himself, as
a Secret Service chief.
The thriller aspect of the story is also well-developed and consistently
intriguing, forcing viewers to pay attention, and rewarding them
with some fine set-pieces.
A bomb on a bus sequence is especially well-delivered while several
of the tension-building false alarms are well-executed.
Pollack deserves further credit for making good use of his New
York locations and for showcasing the UN in all its historical
splendour, given that he is among the first directors to be allowed
entry for filming.
So while The Interpreter might be considered a little too plodding
for audiences who prefer to see a bullet flying every five minutes,
it's the old-fashioned values that make it so ultimately rewarding.
It is a thoughtful, well-written, character-driven thriller that
can be interpreted by viewers on so many levels.