"A well made thriller with global politics on its mind."
Some may complain about its implausibilities; others may call it pretentious. I say The Interpreter is one of the few intelligent, well constructed thrillers to come out in years. The film takes important current socio-political issues and uses them as a backdrop for a tight suspense story.The film stars Nicole Kidman as a UN interpreter who overhears a plot to assassinate the president of a fictional African nation. This once progressive leader has turned to ruthless dictatorship, culminating in the current genocide of his own people. An opening scene shows the chilling current state of the country. Young boys are hired out as mercenary killers and a soccer stadium is a graveyard for those who oppose the government. The assassination plot may be an effort to oust the once beloved president or it could be a ploy to distract attention from the brutal slaughter. A secret service agent (Sean Penn) is assigned to investigate. He finds there is something deeper going on with both the assassination plot and the woman who uncovered it.
Assassination suspense movies are fairly common. Some are well made (In the Line of Fire) while others are atrocious (The Jackal). What makes The Interpreter work is how much it concentrates on the character motivations and the situations they encounter. There are very few action sequences and no real chase scenes. This makes for a very lean thriller. Some might even say it lacks thrills. But where it grabbed me was the detail in its sequences. Stake out scenes and UN assemblies were so meticulously created that I never once lost the film, even though there were a few slips of plausibility. I also appreciated that the story avoided a distracting love story, though the two main characters share a connection in the loss of loved ones. At several points, the writing seems to even hint at a romance angle but then is immediately abandoned, almost as if theyíre winking at the audience.
Acting was very competent, though Sean Penn may have been too much for his role. The back-story of a recent death gave him some scenes to push his emotional overacting but made me also question if he should have even been working. I think the government gives more than two weeks to mourn before putting you back on high profile assassination cases! Nicole Kidmanís accent was a little spotty but that never distracted me. I only wish she could have borrowed some of Pennís intensity for a few of her scenes. Luckily, dialogue was very well written, helping to lighten the mood and keep the pace going with the lack of screeching tires and flying bullets.
What really elevated this thriller was the backdrop of current social issues. The effectiveness of international governing bodies is put into question and the very real occurrence of mass genocide around the world is brought up. I only wish these questions would have been better explored but they end up taking a back-seat to the fiction and suspense of the film. Hotel Rwanda would be a better place to see those avenues investigated.Snappy dialogue, attention to detail and nightly news relevance all add up to a very enjoyable film. If you need romance, explosions and gun fights to hold your attention, consider looking elsewhere. But if you like seeing a little political awareness in your thrillers, The Interpreter could be just the movie youíve been looking for.