The Interpreter Review
Silvia Broome (Kidman) is the titular character, working at the UN where she translates for the delegates into an appropriate dialect (apparently English). One eventful day, due to an earlier evacuation she is forced to return to collect her bag, where she overhears a phrase “The Teacher will never leave this room alive”, which we soon find out relates to a plot to assassinate a controversial African president whom, it has been suggested, should stand on trial for atrocities to his people. However, as she turned the light on just before hearing this, the plotters obviously know she knows and therefore once she's established to whom they were referring to, she contacts the authorities where Tobin Keller (Penn), a secret service agent whose team is assigned to her, initially to confirm her tale, but eventually to protect her. Keller himself has personal issues, with the separation of his wife; he clearly looks emotionally spent and has little reason to trust anyone because of his own personal betrayal. All the while, controversy continues as the aforementioned president is arriving to talk to the UN, to explain his case - hence the assassination plot. People are taking to the streets, the presidents' rivals are up in arms and Broome is clearly not telling the whole truth, especially as her family were massacred by this president's regime, being a native of the same country. Is she telling the truth or is she more involved than she's claiming to be? Will Keller be able to trust her, as the more he investigates, the more lies and half-truths he uncovers?Well, this is a thriller, but clearly a political one, as to be blunt it's not an “exciting” movie, in fact it's not actually very tense at all. There is a permanent air of “whodunit” to the movie, where we are wondering who is the villain/assassin or at least the person behind it, but while we sit and ponder, the movie tends to just float by. I'm in two minds though if this is a good thing or not, on the one hand, it is sublimely played out, beautifully shot and has very appealing lead actors, even if Penn isn't quite as on form here as he has been in other roles. On the flip side, for a thriller to work well, one tends to feel that a “hook” is required, something that draws the audience in and makes them sit and pay great attention to what's happening, but here I feel the movie falls flat to that regard, because although we have this whodunit to solve, the desire to achieve this result isn't particularly high. If we take other thrillers, such as Se7en or Panic Room, we have more an emotive response to these movies, they are to me very much edge-of-your-seat where we are on a rollercoaster ride. Even The Manchurian Candidate remake, which is political, is more edge-of-your-seat than the thriller here, but I'm not saying it's a bad thriller. In fact, someone mentioned to me Mystic River as a thriller and that is a superb example of the type of thriller we have here - while it's incredibly acted and looks fabulous, at no point are we on the rollercoaster looking at the huge ups and downs it will take us on.
So, now you have a picture of the type of thriller we have before us, is it any good? Well, yes and I'd like to think that the two leads are mostly responsible here. Kidman has a reasonable South African-tinged accent, while not as blatantly obvious, it does have the twang (I have SA friends so I'd like to think I have an ear for it) and does her usual job here for the part, being very convincing when we think there's more going on that her character is telling us. Penn, as I alluded to earlier isn't as great here as he is in other, more recent movies, but more than holds his own against Kidman, coming across as a sympathetic soul, more so when you know the complete back-story with his wife, although I did feel a couple of times he was channelling Columbo. Props also to Catherine Keener, who plays Penn's secret agent partner, whom has a slight sarcastic streak at the beginning, which did elicit a laugh from me, although I'm not sure that it was intentional or not. Cinematography, which I don't normally mention in reviews, I will give one to here as it was in some parts quite stunning visually, which is touched upon by the director, Sydney Pollack in a featurette relating to Pan & Scan vs. Widescreen (although I wished he'd call it Scope). It is from this featurette that we learn this is his first widescreen shot/envisioned movie in the last 20 years - Out Of Africa was the first movie he shot P&S specifically apparently.So, although in two minds, I think I'd say that there are worse movies, and indeed thrillers, that you could watch over this, but it is well acted and shot and will entertain you which is the most important thing. Just don't look for edge-of-your-seat because you will be disappointed. I'll leave you with a quote from the movie which sums up the political statement being made.
”Zuwane's murdered half the town. How could it get any worse?”
”With Zuwane? He could murder the other half.”