The Interpreter

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Rating: PG-13

Starring:
Nicole Kidman as Silvia Broome
Sean Penn as Tobin Keller
Catherine Keener as Dot Woods
Jesper Christensen as Nils Lud
Yvan Attal as Philippe
Earl Cameron as Zuwanie
George Harris as Kuman-Kuman
Michael Wright as Marcus
Clyde Kusatsu as Police Chief Lee Wu
Eric Keenleyside as Rory Robb
Hugo Speer as Simon Broome
Maz Jobrani as Mo
Yusuf Gatewood as Doug
Curtiss Cook as Ajene Xola
Byron Utley as Jean Gamba

Special Features:
Audio Commentary – Director Sydney Pollack

Alternate Ending

Deleted Scenes

Sydney Pollack at Work: From Concept to Cutting Room

Interpreting Pan & Scan vs. Widescreen

A Day in the Life of Real Interpreters

The Ultimate Movie Set: The United Nations

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French and Spanish Languages
French and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 2 Hour 9 Minutes

Synopsis:
The following is the description from the DVD cover:

“Academy Award winners Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn star in the action-packed thriller, The Interpreter. In one of the hidden corridors of power at United Nations headquarters, translator Silvia Broome (Kidman) overhears a potentially explosive secret about a planned assassination attempt. But when federal agent Tobin Keller (Penn) investigates her claim and digs deeper into Silvia’s dangerous past, he begins to question whether she is a victim – or a suspect. From Oscar-winning director Sydney Pollack comes the riveting, edge-of-your-seat story of international intrigue that Ebert & Roeper give ‘Two thumbs up!’”

The Interpreter is rated PG-13 for violence, some sexual content and brief strong language.

The Movie:
The Interpreter is one of those movies that I wanted to see in the theater but never got around to doing so. I liked everyone involved and I thought the premise was interesting for a thriller. However, when it arrived on DVD, I found it to be a lot less interesting than I hoped it would be. For a thriller, it’s not all that thrilling. It starts out promising enough and it has four or so exciting action scenes, but there are way too many slow moments in the film to keep up the tension. With over two hours of running time, it’s about 45 minutes too long.

It doesn’t help matters that the actors seem to be heavily sedated through a majority of the film. They are some of the most muted performances that I’ve ever seen from these big name actors. Their low key acting may make them much more realistic, but it certainly doesn’t make them more entertaining to watch. Nicole Kidman leads the cast as Silvia Broome, the interpreter. She plays a white African who soon becomes entangled in a plot to assassinate an African dictator. Kidman plays an interpreter well and is convincing while translating the languages. Unfortunately it isn’t until the final moments of the movie that she really comes alive. Her co-star is Sean Penn as Tobin Keller. Penn has been so visible in the public eye recently that it’s hard to separate the actor from his activism. However, he does a good job of playing a burned out, suspicious Secret Service agent. But like Kidman, he doesn’t really come alive until the final moments of the film. Catherine Keener has a small role as Dot Woods, Tobin’s partner. She’s good in the little screentime that she has and it’s quite a contrast from her comedy role in The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

The big message of The Interpreter is about breaking the cycle of violence in the world. Africa is used as the example of this in the film. However, besides the opening sequence and a little music at the very end, Africa is almost an afterthought. The African assassins are nameless killers with no personality. Only a few photos and decorations indicate Kidman’s African roots. (It almost would have been better if her character was played by an African actress.) The film ends up being very grounded in New York and in and around the U.N. The political message doesn’t hit home as hard when the genocide that haunts our characters happens so far off screen. Hotel Rwanda is a good example of making it work.

The Interpreter is a great looking film. Sydney Pollack was given unprecedented access to the U.N. building and surrounding property. It gives the movie a feeling of realism they couldn’t have gotten anywhere else. The opening sequence filmed in Africa is also fantastic and haunting. And though Pollack uses the action very sparingly in the movie, he is effective with it when the time comes. Besides the opening action sequence, there’s a tense scene with a showdown on a bus and an ensuing explosion. There’s also a tense finale where Tobin tries to spot the potential assassin. While the quiet scenes help flesh out there characters, it’s the action scenes that make The Interpreter most memorable.

If you liked In The Line of Fire, you’ll probably enjoy The Interpreter. While The Interpreter doesn’t have as dynamic characters and it’s slower paced, they are both thrillers about assassination plots, the Secret Service, and political intrigue. It will be most enjoyed by fans of Nicole Kidman, Sean Penn, and Sydney Pollack. Anybody intrigued by the U.N. will also want to check it out.

The Extras:
There are a few bonus features included on this DVD. Here are the highlights:

Audio Commentary – Director Sydney Pollack – Pollack’s commentary would have been better with the actors joining in. He does have a few interesting things to say about the story, shooting in the U.N., and shooting in Africa. However, he talks less and less as the movie progresses to the point where there’s almost no commentary.

Alternate Ending – In this alternate ending, Kidman’s character and the dictator return to the podium at the U.N. and begin reading off the names of those killed during his time as ruler of his country. It’s a nice gesture, but it’s not realistic at all. Seeing as how the rest of the movie had a high degree of realism to it, this ending doesn’t fit with the rest of the film.

Deleted Scenes – There are a few deleted scenes included. In one, Catherine Keener’s character reveals to Kidman that she loves Tobin to some degree. Another scene revealed who the bad guys were much earlier than they were revealed in the climax of the movie.

Sydney Pollack at Work: From Concept to Cutting Room – This short featurette discusses how Pollack likes to shoot, how he likes editing more, how he failed as an actor, etc. It’s all about Pollack in this bonus feature.

Interpreting Pan & Scan vs. Widescreen – This is probably one of the longest features I’ve ever seen on the differences between Pan & Scan and Widescreen. Pollack talks about why he used fullscreen format on many of his past films, why widescreen is better, etc. Don’t worry, Sydney, I’m already sold.

A Day in the Life of Real Interpreters – I thought this was the most interesting of the bonus features. It’s a brief documentary highlighting real interpreters and their work at the UN. It’s a great follow-up to the film.

The Ultimate Movie Set: The United Nations – This was also a highlight of the bonus features. Pollack and his crew discuss how they got permission to film at the real UN building. They talk about the challenges of filming there, the history, the logistics of working around the daily activities, etc.

The Bottom Line:
The plot is often slow and the actors frequently appear to be sleepwalking in their roles, but The Interpreter is an interesting political thriller that should please fans of Penn, Kidman, and Pollack.

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