Maybe it’s just me, but I regard Syndey Pollack as a really good director. I don’t think it’s just me. I mean he hosts his own show on Turner Classic Movies (The Essentials). Somehow, based on this preconceived notion of his skill level, I was disappointed by his latest movie, The Interpreter.
The movie is an intense political thriller centered upon an interpreter at the United Nations, Silvia Broome (Nicole Kidman), who leaves her bag in the office during a security breech. When she goes back that evening to retrieve her possessions, the audio system was left on and she over heard a whispered conversation about an assassination plan against the tyrannical president of her native South African country. In an act of panic, she switches on the light, accidentally making herself visible to the assassins. Understandably scared, Silvia takes her story to the authorities and the secret service is called in. The agent in charge of the case, Tobin Keller (Sean Penn), who’s wife died two weeks earlier, does not believe Silvia at first. Her story has some gaps and it is even plausible that she would want the president dead herself. It soon becomes apparent that Silvia is in danger, whether or not she is in on the assassination, and Keller’s mission becomes finding out where she fits into the scheme, saving her life, and trying not to fall in love.
The interpreter is entertaining. It was engrossingly interesting as I watched it. The end, however, left a big gap that honestly could have been fixed by adding one more line to the closing voice over. The more I thought about the movie after I left the theater, the less satisfying it was. More and more holes became apparent, as did the fact that while this movie is entertaining, it is not a “good movie.” The story is a little less than convincing.
The acting is great. Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman are incredible. Together, the chemistry is not very effective, but their individual performances are wonderful. Kidman brings a strong vulnerability and a resigned determination to the part. She is captivating as this culturally misfit character stuck between the peace of her ideals and the violence of her history and her present situation. This is not Sean Penn’s greatest performance, but he is still excellent and enjoyable to watch. He acts with the same sentimental macho-ness that he used in Mystic River and which makes his character accessible to both genders.
Generally speaking, I was disappointed with The Interpreter. I looked forward to seeing it all week and expected much more than what I got: an entertaining thriller that seems like it should have more to offer than just entertainment. After all, even though a bus explodes, this is not merely a poorly cast action movie. This is a thriller headlining Kidman, Penn, and Pollack.