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The Interpreter

  The Interpreter
"Break 1-9, Break 1-9.
Come back ya'll."

© 2005, Universal Pictures
All Rights Reserved

"The Interpreter" (IMDb listing), starring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn, is a film about knowing who you can trust and the dangers that can come from the wrong interpretation. Silvia Broome (Kidman) is an interpreter for the United Nations in New York City and one of the few that can speak Ku, the native language of Matobo, an African country (it's fictional) where people are being murdered by a brutal regime. A week before President Zuwanie, leader of Matobo, is scheduled to address the UN General Assembly, Silvia overhears a conversation in Ku discussing an assassination attempt on Zuwanie. When she reports the threat, F.B.I. agent Tobin Keller (Penn) is called in to investigate and protect Silvia, as well as the president during his stay in the U.S. As Zuwanie's visit gets closer, details emerge that question the agendas of everyone involved, including Silvia.

Directed by Sydney Pollack, "The Interpreter" is a thriller that proves the power of those with a political agenda and demonstrates the likely mistakes that come from subjective observations. The film shows how every conversation, every interaction, and every connection can be open to interpretation. The way that we define ourselves can bring forth certain details and leave out important others. This film is full of questionable interpretations: Silvia, is she a victim or a suspect? Tobin, is he the job or does his personal life dominate his decisions? Zuwanie, is he a peace-maker or a murderer? Even the plot begs an interpretation and audiences must consider the moral choices about reactions to death.

Kidman and Penn carry the film. Kidman is brilliant in a role where she convincingly speaks a non-existent language. Her effortless ability to play any character leaves audiences hanging on her every whisper and siding with her even when things look suspicious. Penn shows a softer side that's coupled with his tough-guy role as an F.B.I. agent. This combination lets him connect with viewers and successfully be the "good guy." The pair has great chemistry and takes cues from a terrific supporting cast, including Catherine Keener and an un-credited cameo by Pollack.

With sweeping shots of Manhattan, "The Interpreter" not only provides an intense and fast-paced plot, but several different angles to a very familiar cinematic city. It is the first film ever to be shot inside the United Nations Headquarters -- a set that would have been difficult and costly to replicate.

Overall, "The Interpreter" is an intelligent film where the acting and the plot are consistent and satisfying. But of course, like everything else, that is open to interpretation.

Filmfodder Grade: A-

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