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The Interpreter

The Interpreter – Review


Silvia (Kidman) is one of the few United Nations interpreters who speaks Ku – the language of a southern African country, Matobo, whose people suffer at the hands of a brutal regime.
One night, after hours, she overhears people muttering in Ku, plotting to assassinate the president of Matobo during an upcoming speech to the UN General Assembly.
When she reports the threat, the secret service assign the recently-widowed Tobin (Penn) to investigate Silvia and her claim, to ensure the safety of the diplomat during his stay in Manhattan.
As the story unwinds, it becomes that a whole host of people want a whole host of other people out of the way — and many people – not least Silvia herself – have reasons to want the president gone.


Bursting full of Oscar winners (the lead actors, director and one of the writers) and with locations to die for (it’s the first film ever to get permission to shoot within the United Nations building), you’d expect something really special, but The Interpreter fails to live up to the expectation.
Making up a country – and a language – is always asking for trouble. In this case, it makes Kidman sound plain silly. You kind of feel that they should have just had the courage of their political convictions and called the ficticious country “Zimbabwe” and be done with it.
As you’d expect, Kidman and Penn deliver respectable performances, but just because Penn’s recent roles have involved tortured souls, why does this one have to be a widower of three weeks standing? Can’t you be a hero without having misery in your recent past?
This is one of many unnecessary cliches that weigh down an already convoluted plot. Another is a handful of locations that defy logic – scenes that take place miles away from anywhere, on the far side of the East River, just so that the UN building can appear in the background.
As big-budget Hollywood blockbusters go, it’s on the clever side, but it’s not as clever as it thinks it is. Neither is it as exciting – not least because the victim of this alleged assassination attempt is painted as such an evil dictator that we’d probably rather the plotters got away with it.
This is by no means a bad film. It’s just not as good as it could have or should have been.

Opens 15 April 2005

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