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The Interpreter

Genre: Drama/Action/Thriller
Rated: PG-13
Directed by
Released by: Universal Pictures

In Short: Director Sydney Pollack and stars Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn squander the opportunity to make the most of this film’s setting at the United Nations.

What a World! What a World!
So much access; so little interest
By Andrew Bender

To read the press, director Sydney Pollack had the world on a string – the crew for “The Interpreter” was given unprecedented access to locations inside United Nations headquarters. But my how the world can be ravaged. This story is hard to care about, poorly told and embarrassingly acted.

“The Interpreter” starts out as a perfectly serviceable action film. From an assassination in a dusty, fictional country in Africa, we cut to the bookish yet gorgeous Silvia (Nicole Kidman), a translator at the United Nations. Silvia gets herself in a world of trouble by innocently returning to pick up some belongings after the building is locked down for a security lapse.

For a while, it looks like the film is actually going somewhere. There’s an African dictator and his thugs, and Secret Service agents led by Sean Penn and Catherine Keener (we could have used more of her), but nothing much happens among them. Silvia is mixed up in it, then she’s not, then she is... and so it plods for two-plus hours.

The characters’ motivations are hazy, on-screen chemistry is virtually nil, and some plot points make no sense. Characters take long stretches to emote (there’s no time for that in a thriller!) and shuffle through everyday actions that are just d-u-l-l. If the United Nations is actually this boring, you should be glad you failed that Foreign Service exam.

It’s sad because Pollack is one of our great directors (“The Way We Were,” “Tootsie,” “Out of Africa,” and “the Firm”), and “The Interpreter” clearly has grand aspirations—the script tells us that every chance it gets. Characters wax (and wax and wax) on themes of death, vengeance and patriotism, but we were ready to walk out the door before there was any payoff.

Given these results, we wouldn’t mind if the Security Council imposes sanctions all further filming at the United Nations.

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