The Interpreter


Directed by: Sydney Pollack
Written by:Charles Randolph, Scott Frank, Steven Zaillian
Starring: Sean Penn, Nicole Kidman, Catherine Keener, Jesper Christensen, Yvan Attal, Earl Cameron
Released: April 14, 2005
Grade: B

Silvia Broome (Kidman) is an interpreter who works at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.  After a standard security evacuation, she returns to an empty auditorium inside the building to big up her bag.  Using the headset in her soundproof booth, she overhears a shocking conversation between two men on the darkened floor below her.  The president of Matabo, Edmond Zuwanie (Cameron), is to be assassinated when he visits the UN later this week.

Sensing that her presence did not go unnoticed, Silvia approaches the Secret Service for protection.  They are suspicious that she waited 24 hours to come forward with the information and officers Tobin Keller (Penn) and Dot Woods (Keener) have been asked to investigate.  Keller believe Silvia’s claim to be a hoax and quickly uncovers a hidden past.  Unfortunately for them, Silvia’s threat must be taken seriously.  As Keller’s boss eloquently phrases it – “I’d rather make the mistake of believing her than the bigger one of not”.

There are two key ingredients that are essential in any good crime thriller – (1) interesting clues, and (2) a plausible conclusion which supports the clues.  There is no genre is which the ending is more important.  You can make a fascinatingly intriguing film but ruin it in the final five minutes.

I guess you know where I’m going with this.  The Interpreter is a very enjoyable film to watch and I doubt very much that you will be bored.  You will find yourself reviewing the evidence and formulating an opinion on the motives of Nicole Kidman.  Like any movie thriller though, you have to be careful for red herrings.  It’s humorously ironic that whilst the simplest explanation is often the most likely in reality, this is seldom the case on the big screen.

As pleasurable as it was to watch throughout, the last feeling I can remember was disappointment.  Several plot developments I deemed “too hard to believe” but did hope that it all would make sense in the finale.  This was not the case.  I discussed the merits of the screenplay with a friend for at least 15 minutes after leaving the cinema.  Breaking it down with the benefit of hindsight, we felt there were too many inconsistencies.  For example, the film’s opening shows us how incredibly tight the security is at the UN.  Why then, does security become so slack later on?

As the first film to be shot inside the United Nations’ New York Headquarters, director Sydney Pollack (The Firm, Out Of Africa) makes the most of the location.  It creates an authentic look and serves as a terrific backdrop for the action.  Pollack even used real UN employees as extras in some scenes.  I guess the locale wasn’t an inspiration for either Nicole Kidman or Sean Penn whose stifled performances won’t see them adding any awards to their mantelpiece.

At a time in which every second program on Australian prime-time television is a crime show (Law & Order, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Cold Case, Without A Trace), The Interpreter should prove popular at the box-office.  Success aside, it’s a shame that the full show doesn’t live up the promise of its trailer.