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The Interpreter
2005 - PG-13 - 128 Mins.
Director: Sydney Pollack
Producer: Sydney Pollack
Written By: Scott Frank
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Sean Penn, Catherine Keener
Review by: Harrison Cheung
Official Site:

Don't tell me how to wear my hair!
High dollar stars don’t guarantee a good movie – that’s the lesson to learn from the highly illogical ‘The Interpreter’ which stars overrated Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn. Directed by prolific Hollywood veteran, Sydney Pollack who peaked in the 1980s with ‘Out of Africa’ and ‘Tootsie,’ ‘The Interpreter’ has an interesting premise that gets mired down by silly dialogue, poor logic, and some nostril-flaring showboating from its stars.

A fictional African country has major political problems with an old menacing dictator and two other factions vying for power. At the United Nations headquarters in New York, interpreter Silvia Broome (Nicole Kidman) inadvertently overhears a plot to kill this much hated dictator when he comes to New York to address the General Assembly. Though this dictator has been accused of genocide, ‘The Interpreter’ plays it safe by making up a fictional country with a fictional language for Nicole Kidman to practice Afrikaaner-inflected English.

When the Secret Service is called in to check out this possible threat to a visiting dignitary, investigator Tobin Keller (Sean Penn) gets assigned to Broome who has a suspicious background of her own – she happens to be from the fictional African country and has possible political grudges against the dictator. There’s also a clumsy back story that Keller’s wife had just been killed in a car accident – a convenient if unbelievable way for Keller to crack the ice with Broome and flirt with some post-traumatic attraction.

Amazingly, ‘The Interpreter’ also has indie queen, Catherine Keener, who has precious little to do in this A-list behemoth except to fetch Sean Penn his coffee.

This kind of movie might have played okay in the 1980s, but today, it reeks of design by committee. Is this a political thriller, poking at real life African tyrants? A message movie about when it’s right to assassinate a dictator? Or when the ends justify the means in a terrorist act? ‘The Interpreter’ plays it safe and concentrates on the human drama where, as a Sean Penn movie, Keller gets to pound tables and holler; and as a Nicole Kidman movie, Broome vogues by turning her head left and right, delicately keeping a well-positioned strand of hair over her right eye throughout the entire movie.

Clearly made to be Oscar-bait, ‘The Interpreter’ implodes with major logic problems – including a senseless ending – the DVD release includes an Alternate ending that makes even less sense, and major logic and continuity errors like notes written in one language, even though the author is supposed to only speak another. Another telltale sign of a stinker – the DVD commentary is made only by Pollack – the stars are no where in sight. Pollack does manage to impress how unusual and unique the profession of U.N. interpreter is, but as a thriller, ‘The Interpreter’ is… get ready for the groan… lost in translation.
Movie Guru Rating
Bland, boring, inept. Forgettable. Bland, boring, inept. Forgettable.
  1.5 out of 5 stars

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