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Overall Rating
3.34

Awesome: 7.06%
Worth A Look45.88%
Just Average: 29.41%
Pretty Crappy: 9.41%
Sucks: 8.24%

8 reviews, 37 user ratings


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Interpreter, The
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by Erik Childress

"A Classy Thriller Any Way You Say It"
4 stars

Sydney Pollack is a director who keeps it close to the vest. His films are methodical, even sometimes labored with a running time that doesnít know when to quit. Heís hit gold with romantic comedies (Tootsie, Sabrina) but has pillow talked millions back to their pillows with the romantic dramas (The Way We Were, Out of Africa, Havana). Romance certainly needs its room to breathe and time to develop, but no other genre deserves its space as much as the thriller. Pollackís Three Days of the Condor and The Firm root themselves in very simple loglines only to exponentiate the stakes into something potent and cautiously revealing its intentions for suspense. The Interpreter is a fine entry into that description.

Silvia Broome (Nicole Kidman[/b[) works as an interpreter for the United Nations. She has all the voice patterns down and is even versed in a little-known African language thanks to her upbringing in the Southern portion of that continent. Itís in this dialect that she overhears voices cryptically suggest a potential assassination of a visiting African savior-turned-warlord. She takes her time reporting the matter to the authorities and it raises the suspicions of Secret Service agent, Tobin Keller (Sean Penn), assigned to investigate.

He immediately reads her as a liar and a background check reveals some activist red flags that Silvia has hoped to leave behind, even if the pictures that support it make the Oswald cover photo in Life Magazine look genuine by comparison. Agent Keller has some demons of his own to exorcise and I certainly question the Secret Serviceís policy on personal time if heís out there busting his butt in the wake of a family tragedy.

You may be thinking that Pollack is reducing the normal tricks of a politicized thriller to tell the story through personal crises, but you would be ignoring just how much is on display. Itís not just the origin of the terror plot, although clues are continually dropped and it isnít solely based in some altruistic motivation tied into the political message of the film. The richness of the characters and how we personally interpret the dialogue they speak overrides any doubts we have about what some may perceive as a dryness in its progression.

This is an A-class production that begins where all solid films begin Ė in the script department. Or, at least, in the rewrites. Scott Frank (Minority Report) & Steven Zaillian (Searching for Bobby Fischer) are two of the best screenwriters in the business and if you need someone to pick up where Charles ďThe Life of David GaleĒ Randolph left off, these are the doctors you call in. The Interpreter breathes the aroma of what Frank and Zaillian bring to the table, never more evident than the first face-off between Kidman and Penn. Each sizes up the other, while important facts about their jobs are served up without feeling like baseless exposition. Thereís a snap, crackle and pop to the dialogue which feeds into two tremendous performances.

Penn and Kidman treat the material with the gravitas that most thrillers of this ilk canít afford and its easy to see how the slightest miscasting would have doomed it before having a chance to get rolling. Even Catherine Keener in an almost nothing role as Pennís partner gets to spice it up with the filmís best quips. When Kidman is on her game though, easing into a performance not tailor-made for Oscar posturing, she is without argument one of the most competent actresses out there. We accept that weíre watching a character with a history and not one merely reacting to a new threat. Thereís fear, but its one based in opening old wounds rather than the harm which may find her now. Penn is always on his game and is not in the least slumming in some piece of Hollywood entertainment thatís beneath him. He plays Agent Keller as a professional exhausted by recent trauma and one whose personal relationships of wanton mistrust turn into a desire to protect, even if itís too late. Thereís one scene where Pollack frames Penn behind window blinds and its amazing how Penn is still able to communicate everything he is processing while portions of his face are masked into puzzle pieces.

Beyond intimate characters moments such as that, Pollack also manages to orchestrate one of the great suspense sequences of recent years. Where its normal to watch a master like Brian DePalma expertly put his pieces in place, we are still aware of the strategy he is playing. Pollack never shows his hand, thinking six moves ahead and distracting us with further intensity before unveiling his masterful rendezvous with all the major players and a city bus. As 2005 has slumbered through Elektra, Constantine, Hostage and Sahara, the best action scenes of the year belong to Oldboy, Tony Jai and Sydney Pollack.

The resolution of The Interpreter might not reach as far as we could hope, but it makes its point even if Pollackís hand should be clear to those paying close attention. His hand for many years was to work with the same actors over and over again. He directed Harrison Ford in back-to-back pictures, a trifecta for Burt Lancaster and a careers-worth of seven with Robert Redford. Hereís hoping that Pollack starts a new relationship with either Penn or Kidman. And, of course, stays clear of romantic dramas in favor of thrillers. Especially one as adult and satisfying as this.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11930&reviewer=198
originally posted: 04/22/05 00:13:01
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User Comments

8/01/13 PAUL SHORTT WELL MADE BUT IMPLAUSIBLE 2 stars
12/04/11 Pamela White Good intellectual thriller 4 stars
5/10/11 Chris. Poor acting, poor storytelling, too long, why do people like this 2 stars
11/23/08 Shaun Wallner Interesting Movie! 4 stars
3/16/08 mr.mike Has all the nail-biting suspense of....an episode of "Hunter". 2 stars
12/16/07 Jason Boring. 1 stars
1/31/07 Matt Kidman is horribly miscast in an implausible movie. Nothing here worth giving a shit about 2 stars
8/07/06 missy Le Peaux riveting 5 stars
6/21/06 drydock54321 just ok . 3 stars
4/14/06 Steve Newman Excellent film - really enjoyable Apr 06 5 stars
2/03/06 Indrid Cold Plenty of attention to the humanity of it all, but it isn't thrilling, or even interesting. 3 stars
1/03/06 Piz far fetched and wacky but kept my interest 4 stars
12/25/05 R.W.Welch It ain't Manchurian Candidate, but a pro piece of work overall. 4 stars
11/26/05 KCobain Really bad and way too long. 2 stars
10/21/05 Phil M. Aficionado Despite Penn, any occasional brushes with reality are strictly coincidental 3 stars
10/19/05 Agent Sands Another anticipated big event that's forgotten completely. Keener is a highlight. 4 stars
10/11/05 ad cheesy, unconvincing and not innovative at all 2 stars
10/09/05 Monday Morning Slow & boring. Another nail in Hollywood's coffin. Many TV shows now surpass movies. 2 stars
7/25/05 Tim Kidman and Penn have NOOOO chemistry 2 stars
7/05/05 Frances Smeath Slowness and boredom is sometimes in beholders not in what they behold. 5 stars
6/29/05 Mark Murphy great thriller 4 stars
6/18/05 aldo Talk...Talk...talk....Talk....Talk.....Bang...Talk...talk...talk...Zzzz..zzz 1 stars
6/10/05 Captain Craig No Academy Award here, but entertaining.You will like it better if you get in half price! 3 stars
6/06/05 Helen Bradley Very slow paced, Kidman and Penn while good actors have some poor dialogue to work through 1 stars
5/14/05 jcjs ho hum especiall after 'Kingdom of Heaven' 3 stars
5/12/05 Mark Thomas Painfully nauseating with horrendous racial overtones 1 stars
5/09/05 Carol It was okay 3 stars
5/08/05 jeff set ur alarm clock for 2:08 1 stars
5/01/05 Heather edge of seat thriller but watch out for plot holes 5 stars
4/30/05 alandala about as exciting and fun as watching grass grow 1 stars
4/27/05 Titus That makes two watchable movies for the year. Good, but not special. 4 stars
4/26/05 brody more ass taste than the olive garden 1 stars
4/25/05 Jeff Anderson A very intelligent & gripping thriller. Penn, Kidman & Keener(my favorite) are OUTSTANDING! 5 stars
4/24/05 Obi Wan Wow, best Thriller in a very long time. Actually had me at the edge of my seat! 5 stars
4/22/05 Sergio Better than Pollack's later films, but it ain't no The Yakuza 3 stars
4/19/05 Philip Buckley-Mellor Better than average story/direction/acting, but excellent photography and editing 4 stars
4/18/05 John Bale Sophisticated political thriller in the Hitchcock mold, with significance in the real world 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  22-Apr-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 04-Oct-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  14-Apr-2005




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