Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Teaser Trailer
The Farewell To Middle-earth Issue
Review Of The Year 2014
Subscribe: Get 12 Issues For £25
Buy the perfect Christmas present this year
Farewell To Middle-earth
Full details of our Peter Jackson-edited issue
Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Nicole Kidman
Sean Penn.
Directors
Sydney Pollack.
Screenwriters
Scott Frank
Charles Randolph
Steve Zaillian.
Running Time
0 minutes

LATEST DVD REVIEWS
100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared, The
3 Star Empire Rating
Gremlins
5 Star Empire Rating
Exorcist, The
4 Star Empire Rating
Romance
3 Star Empire Rating
Green Mile, The
4 Star Empire Rating



5 STAR REVIEWS
Gremlins
5 Star Empire Rating
Intolerance
5 Star Empire Rating
Spirited Away
5 Star Empire Rating
Thief Of Bagdad, The
5 Star Empire Rating
Killing Fields, The
5 Star Empire Rating

The Interpreter
Penn and Kidman try to get to the bottom of a potential assassination plot.


submit to reddit


Plot
After UN interpreter Silvia Broome (Kidman) overhears a plot to assassinate an African leader - the leader of her home country, in fact - the US Secret Service is brought in to investigate, in the shape of hard-bitten agent Tobin Keller (Penn). Of course, all is not what it seems.


Review
Among the glut of freewheeling hyper-thrillers that dare not take a breather in case we all doze off, it's encouraging to see a wily old master like Sydney Pollack putting the emphasis back on the noble art of chinwagging. This is a dense, intricate story that demands your attention, so no flagging or fiddling about in your Revels or you'll most likely lose the plot. There's an old-fashioned sturdiness to The Interpreter's dedication to meaty, thinky message-making, even if the film is finally overburdened by its good intentions.

The marriage of politics and suspense came to the fore during the '70s, the pervading Nixonian paranoia and the wound of Vietnam feeding into Hollywood thrillers, and it's difficult not to read a similar, if subtler, resonance with today's global climate here. Pollack gives serious time to Silvia's world-view; this smart, shaky lady values the purity of diplomacy over violence, she repeatedly insists that the UN matters, and Bush, the subtext hisses, should take note. That it also dwells on African dissonance, a history of mass culls and fallen idealism in the fictional state of Matoba, keeps tabs on the current Hotel-Rwandan vogue for ethnic tribulation.

Penn and Kidman are set up as a duel - he crushed by personal demons, she nervously protecting her own secrets - that slowly thaws into a quasi-romance. These two consummate talents thrive in the long, dialogue-driven scenes, even if there isn't enough about their characters to really stretch either. Kidman, whose alabaster complexion speaks less of an African upbringing than being kept locked in an attic her whole life, nimbly adopts the regional accent and fraught expressions of the put-upon heroine. Penn skilfully does his shredded-machismo bit, big on wobbling chins and glowering stares. They do, by contrast, make a fine match.

Pollack's calm, controlled hand is evident throughout. When required to quicken the pulse he ably cross-cuts between multiple viewpoints, giving the film a nervous jangle. Through the middle-third he gets to finally have some fun, adding a magnificent, if slightly nonsensical, bomb-on-a-bus crisis (the best scene). How ironic that The Interpreter should be at its most assured when cutting loose and clichéd... It's also good to see New York - as in the real New York, not the make-do streets of Toronto or Montreal. Abundant use is made of the city, emphasising its, well, New Yorkiness, to give The Interpreter an authentic tone, a brownstone haven away from the dust storms of Matoba. And you can't fault the debut of the interior of the real UN building in movies (even Hitchcock was famously refused permission to shoot there). The camera seeks out the frayed lines and drab '50s décor of its hallowed halls and corridors like an in-built metaphor for the institution's struggle for relevance.

Where the film snags is in melding both its thriller framework and political philosophy. Too often the writers' mechanics become visible, credulity-yanking devices to get us from A to B and that all-important speechifiying. While stretching plausibility is all part of the genre, Pollack's movie never quite snaps back into shape. In this time of taut, all-encompassing security, the Secret Service's inability to shut down such a threatening situation just smacks of gross incompetence.


Extras

Interpreter, The Interpreter, The
Released: 15 August 2005
An underwhelming collection of deleted scenes (including a slightly different ending) and trailers. More interesting is a too-brief interview with Pollack, his commentary, and behind-the-scenes featurettes on filming at the UN and the real-life interpreters there. Nicole Kidman contributes, but Penn is suspiciously absent.


Verdict
Solid, mature and finely acted, but intermittently daft. You have to respect its noble intentions and attempts to give popular film a real, opinionated edge, but reality is the thing that finally escapes it.


Reviewed by Ian Nathan

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.

Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Interpreter
Empire Star Rating

This movie was an interesting yet shallow film that thought it was smarter than it was. I wouldn't recommend it. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jamdodge1 at 19:42, 23 May 2007 | Report This Post


This movie was an interesting yet shallow film that thought it was smarter than it was. I wouldn't recommend it. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jamdodge1 at 19:42, 23 May 2007 | Report This Post


SUBSCRIPTION OFFERS

SAVE UP TO 69% GET 12 ISSUES FOR ONLY £25
Get the best seat in the house by subscribing to the world's biggest movie magazine today. Save up to 69% and every month you'll get exclusive subscriber-only covers, access to the biggest stars and the best news, reviews and behind-the-scenes reports straight from the set. Click here to find the perfect offer for you


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
The 10 Best Games Of The Year
2014's top pixel-pushers duke it out for the number one slot

Dan Stevens: The Breakout Star Of 2014
We congratulate The Guest star on his year to remember

The 15 Most Memorable Character Deaths Of The Year
2014’s RIP honour roll

Review Of The Year: 10 Best Soundtracks Of 2014
The scores and OSTs to add to your playlist

Watch: Night At The Museum's Cast Share Their Favourite Robin Williams Performance
Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Ben Kingsley pay tribute to the actor

Watch: Jack O'Connell And Luke Treadaway Talk Unbroken
On POWs, panto and how to name your bomber

Review Of 2014: The 15 Best Cameos Of The Year
Our favourite one-scene movie-stealers

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 12 Issues Of Empire For Only £25!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 12 issues of Empire for just £25!
Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)