The Interpreter [Celluloid Hero]
The Interpreter (2005)
I wish I had stuck with my French lessons after high school. There's something fun about being able to speak another language, especially when people don't expect you to. I've read the stories about someone being out in public and catching someone talking trash in another language, only to turn around and bust the native speakers in their own tongue. To be able to fluently translate another language is a key element of "The Interpreter", as a United Nations interpreter happens to overhear two speakers of a relatively rare African dialect talk about the assassination of a political figure.
Nicole Kidman plays Silvia Broome, an interpreter who was raised the fictional African country Matobo. After going back to the office late at night to pick up some things she left, she happens to hear whispers of an assassination plot. The Secret Service gets involved, but the various coincidences, combined with Broome's political activist past, muddy the situation. A terrorist attack in Brooklyn amps up the suspense, and leads to a tense climax.
Sydney Pollack is a highly-respected director, but as I scanned through his filmography, I realized the only movie I have seen of his was the remake of "Sabrina", which I have no idea why I would have watched at all, and probably saw when I was 14. His directing is fine, but my issues come with the two leads, Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn. Kidman is Australian, but I have no idea how much of her native accent is still present in her normal day-to-day voice. For this role, she picks up a stilted South African accent that never feels comfortable. Sean Penn is usually great, but never felt like the right fit for a Secret Service agent. His backstory felt unnecessary, and Penn didn't bring much emotion to it. I think if they had tried to play him as a stricter agent it would have worked, but trying to soften and humanize him and push a connection between him and Broome makes it weak.
There were some moments of genuine tension, there were decent amounts of political intrigue, but with only so much to work with, it's basically a movie that won't spend much time rattling around my brain.
[Celluloid Hero] gives "The Interpreter" a 5 out of 10.