11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Sophisticated political thriller,
This review is from: The Interpreter [DVD]  (DVD)
The premise in this tightly wrought thriller directed by the very accomplished Sydney Pollack is that Zuwanie (Earl Cameron) the old dictator (once "freedom fighter") of an African nation called "Matobo" is coming to New York to make a speech in front of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Silvia Broome (Nicole Kidman), an interpreter at the UN, overhears part of a conversation after-hours that leads her to believe that there will be an assassination attempt on the leader's life. She tells security. Federal agent Tobin Keller (Sean Penn) is called in to investigate and help prevent an assassination.
Keller quickly discovers that Silvia is from Matobo where her parents were murdered by some of Zuwanie's henchmen and where she was subsequently involved in some political/paramilitary activities. Two questions that Keller must answer are, does she have some sort of motive to lie and how is she involved?
The problem with the film (aside from some of the usual improbabilities and contortions found in Hollywood thrillers--and to be honest there weren't that many in this one) is the ending. Without giving anything away, the probability of Zumanie being left alone after what had happened is something like zero. But the real problem is what happens between Tobin and Silvia at the end. They are both very available and after they have had the opportunity to bond under very difficult circumstances, can you guess how their relationship is resolved? I understand there was an alternative ending. Maybe Pollack should have employed it.
Pollack's films going back several decades are characterized by diversity of subject matter, excellent scripts, and star power. Four of his best are They Shoot Horses Don't They? (1969) (depression ear dance marathon drama starring Jane Fonda); Tootsie (1982) (romantic comedy starring Dustin Hoffman); Out of Africa (1985) (adapted from the famous book by Karen Blixen under her pen name "Isak Dinesen," starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford); and Sabrina (1995) (splendid remake of the Audrey Hepburn film this time starring Julie Ormond and Harrison Ford). But he tends to like action/adventure as much as comedy or drama. He is one of filmdom's most versatile directors, and this film, while not his best, is very representative of his work.
But what carries the film is the charisma of the stars, Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman, especially Kidman who seems the very impersonation of what an interpreter at the UN might be. She manages to be delicate but tough, thoroughly professional and beautiful. I have seen her in seven or eight films and can say that she is as talented as any actress currently working. In her ability to concentrate and to completely immerse herself in a role she is comparable to Meryl Streep. Some early films of hers that display her youthful vitality and the natural sophistication and nuanced manner of her style are Dead Calm (1989), Flirting (1991), and To Die For (1995).
By the way, "Matobo" is not an actual nation but is the name of a national park in Zimbabwe and as far as I can tell "Ku" is not an actual language. (I have no idea what they were speaking.)
Bottom line: Can a film directed by Sydney Pollack starring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn be anything but worth seeing?