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With: Nicole Kidman, Sean Penn, Catherine Keener, Jesper Christensen, Yvan Attal, Earl Cameron, George Harris, Michael Wright, Clyde Kusatsu, Eric Keenleyside, Hugo Speer
Written by: Charles Randolph, Scott Frank, Steven Zaillian, based on a story by Martin Stellman, Brian Ward
Directed by: Sydney Pollack
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, some sexual content and brief strong language
Running Time: 128
Date: 04/03/2005

The Interpreter (2005)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Tongue Twisting

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Sydney Pollack's The Interpreter is an earnest attempt at that increasingly rare item, an adult entertainment. But in the attempt it takes away elements that are associated with youth: energy, excitement and romance. Even so, Nicole Kidman is in the middle of an extraordinary stretch of her career, and she has the ability to break hearts while turning in an exemplary performance; she even steals the movie from co-star Sean Penn.

Kidman stars as Silvia Broome, a UN interpreter who speaks several African languages and dialects. She has dual citizenship and even talks with a gentle African accent. During a fairly convoluted and coincidental setup, she overhears a death threat directed toward a brutal African head of state. She receives protection from Tobin Keller, a Secret Service agent (Penn), and he in turn feverishly tries to solve the case. Several shady characters turn up from time to time; sometimes they try to kill Silvia and sometimes not, depending on where in the script we happen to be.

Not much of said script makes sense and Pollack's mushy direction fails to heighten the movie's few thrills. During the climax, Pollack dulls the emotionally charged atmosphere by cutting back and forth between close-ups of his actors rather than holding his shot. One sequence, with Kidman and Penn in opposite apartment windows talking to each other on the phone, works well, and Pollack has always been good with actors. It's not hard to remember that he once made thrillers like Three Days of the Condor (1974), but lately his brand of filmmaking has been closer to lightweights like Presumed Innocent (which he produced) and The Firm.

Catherine Keener co-stars in the slim role of Penn's partner, but she makes the most of it with her smart-ass delivery.

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