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THE INTERPRETER

Starring: Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn
Director: Sydney Pollack
Rated: M15+

MOST thrillers end up being disappointing.

The Interpreter is not one of them, until the very end, so it’s worth a look.

South African Silvia Broome (Nicole Kidman) is an interpreter at the United Nations.

One night, when she returns to collect her things from work, she overhears a conversation between two African diplomats. In it she hears them say, “The Teacher will never leave this room alive”.

They are speaking Matoboese, a southern African language that Broome understands from her childhood. The Teacher is the hated President of Matoba who is due to address the United Nations General Assembly later that week.

When Silvia goes to UN Security with her information, they call in the CIA’s Diplomatic Protection Unit to check Broome out, and protect the President.

Special agent Tobin Keller (Sean Penn) starts out being Broome’s devil’s advocate, then he becomes her guardian angel.

Universal Pictures has poured a lot of money into this film. It shows. With director Sydney Pollack and two big-name stars, The Interpreter has production values to match the investment.

Shot on location at the United Nations in Manhattan, the film looks and feels real.

Even though Kidman’s South African accent seems to come and go in the film, the acting is strong and unbelievable. Can Sean Penn ever give a bad performance?

The problem with thrillers is that the payoff is either too unbelievable or two obvious.

In The Interpreter it is a bit of both. It is unbelievable for me to accept that United Nations interpreter staff have access to every single room in the building, even the most secure ones. Maybe they do, but I doubt it.

The film is obvious in as much as it points out the baddies and their minders fairly early on, and we are not disappointed.

There are a couple of surprising and annoying elements in a film with this much money behind it.

Silvia Broome’s hair is a study in ‘messy chic’, but it ends up a problem for the continuity within some scenes.

The photograph of Silvia in the front row of the peace rally in Matoba becomes laughable when Keller is asked to find Broome in it.

I think it is safe to say she is the tall, white, redhead in the centre of the front row amidst all the other black people.

The CIA agents are, as usual, the most obvious undercover trailers imaginable and why does the would-be assassin go to Silvia’s place just to scare her when he knows she is being watched by the CIA (he’s seen one of their agents)?

For all these quibbles, The Interpreter is good entertainment, well written, cleverly directed and logistically brilliant.

But one warning – there is a very brutal scene at the start of the film which sets up the context for the rest of the drama, so be ready.

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