The Interpreter

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner13/04/2005

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 122 mins

Enjoyable, old-fashioned, 1970s-style thriller with a political edge that succeeds thanks to Pollack’s assured direction and strong performances from its two leads.

You have to love Sean Penn - it’s almost as if he’s staging a one-man 1970s-style thriller revival. This is his second movie in two weeks after The Assassination of Richard Nixon and although both of them share elements with classic 1970s thrillers, The Interpreter is definitely more about the thrills than the politics.

UN Interpreter Overhears Assassination Plot

Nicole Kidman stars as Silvia Broome, a UN interpreter who grew up in Matobo, a fictional African country that became a dictatorship. When she overhears a plot to assassinate the Matobo president (Earl Cameron) on an upcoming, politically fraught visit to the UN, she becomes the centre of a Secret Service investigation, headed by Agent Tobin Keller (Sean Penn). However, all is not quite as it seems and Keller begins to doubt whether Silvia is a witness or a suspect.

The Interpreter is the sort of dialogue-heavy thriller that demands your close attention as the plot is revealed - despite the trailer’s explosive attempts to persuade you otherwise, there’s very little in the way of actual action until about a third of the way through.

However, when Pollack finally pulls out the stops, he delivers two stunning sequences: a thrilling scene on a bus when three important characters suddenly converge, along with the three bewildered Secret Service agents assigned to tail them; and a nail-biting climactic sequence that could serve as a masterclass in the use of editing and score to create tension.

Great Cinematography And Score

In addition, the film looks fabulous, thanks to impressive, glossy cinematography by Darius Khondji, and features a terrific score by James Newton Howard. Pollack was also granted permission to film inside the UN building for the first time (Hitchcock would be green with envy - he was famously refused permission to shoot there) and he makes strong use of the UN interiors, which have a strange sort of 1950s feel to them.

Both Kidman and Penn are superb in the lead roles - they have a genuine chemistry in their scenes together as the two characters struggle to understand each other and gradually reveal the tragedies in their pasts. Even Kidman’s South African accent isn’t that bad once you get used to it.

Penn, in particular, is devastatingly good - you really feel for his character and it’s surprising to find this much emotional depth in what is essentially a genre thriller. There’s also strong support from the always wonderful Catherine Keener as Keller’s acerbic partner, Agent Dot Woods, although she’s given much to little to do and her character all but disappears in the middle of the film.

In short, The Interpreter is an enjoyably old-fashioned movie that reminds you that thrillers don’t have to be about big budget effects and explosions to succeed. Worth seeing.

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The Interpreter
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Content updated: 16/09/2019 11:20

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