Big Picture Big Sound

The Interpreter Review

By Joe Lozito

Ms. Communication


Sydney Pollack is one of the rare directors - Spielberg and Scorsese come to mind - who can open a film. The man who brought us "Tootsie" and "Out of Africa" is always good for a solid, if sometimes uneven ("Random Hearts" or "Sabrina", anyone?), film. With a plot full of deception and shifting alliances, "The Interpreter" harkens back to the days of his 1975 espionage thriller "Three Days of the Condor".

Written and re-written by three writers over as many years, the script - which follows a United Nations interpreter (Nicole Kidman) who overhears an assassination plot - is filled to the breaking point with characters and political intrigue. Oddly out of place in the title role of a white African from the fictional nation of Matobo with a checkered family history, Ms. Kidman is too distant and cold to generate any sympathy, and her oh-so-preciously tussled hair confounds any continuity from shot to shot. The heart of the film comes from the always-reliable Sean Penn. After his blood vessel-bursting performance in "Mystic River", Mr. Penn proves again that his in an endlessly watchable actor, this time turning his formidable intensity inward.

Mr. Pollack, as usual taking small acting role in the film, keeps the pace brisk and locations beautiful. This is New York City the way it used to be filmed; all beautiful, urban concrete and steel. The real star of the film is the U.N. building whose authorities, after declining any request for location shooting over the years (famously forcing Alfred Hitchcock to build a facsimile for "North by Northwest"), finally relented to Mr. Pollack. Working with world-class D.P. Darius Khondji (who could make a blank wall look good), the director takes every advantage of the opportunity. The building, still stylishly modern, holds up as a symbol of hope for international diplomacy.

The locations add a much-needed authenticity to the proceedings which is betrayed only by a ludicrously convenient ending. Still, in an age of ADD-style editing and fabricated stars, "The Interpreter" is a refreshing throwback to the days of smarter films and passionate directors. It may not be a perfect film, but it just nice to see a master at work.

What did you think?

Movie title The Interpreter
Release year 2005
MPAA Rating PG-13
Our rating
Summary This old fashioned political thriller is marred by a needlessly twisty plot and a miscast Nicole Kidman, but director Sydney Pollack still has the chops to pull it off.
View all articles by Joe Lozito
More in Movies
Big News
Newsletter Sign-up
Connect with Us