Starring: Nicole Kidman, Sean Penn, Catherine Keener
Director: Sydney Pollack
Running Time: 128 mins
The Interpreter is an American film about a woman working for the UN as an interpreter who becomes embroiled in a complex and murky case that revolves around a mysterious plot to assassinate a controversial African leader.
With good political intrigue and two strong lead performances from Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn, The Interpreter is always an enjoyable thriller, but at first, it doesn’t seem like the most intelligent, nor the most unpredictable. However, after a bit of a rocky start, the film develops into a thoroughly exciting mystery with complex, engaging and surprising twists, blending that fantastic political intrigue with some enthralling character drama that stands strong right to the finish.
Let’s start with the film’s opening act, which, for the most part, is its weakest. That’s not to say The Interpreter is ever a boring film, and with its clever blend of imagined political drama and allegories to the real world, it provides more than enough intrigue and cagey suspicion right from the off.
What’s more, with Nicole Kidman giving an engrossing lead performance alongside an enigmatic Sean Penn, The Interpreter kicks off with a strong helping of drama and intrigue, only not to the extent that the story really wants you to feel.
Early on, the problem with the film is that it struggles to pull you into its main mystery surrounding the true identity and intentions of Nicole Kidman’s character. In part, that’s down to a fairly weak starting point where any suspicions cast upon her seem unrealistic, but also due to the fact that the film just doesn’t have enough of an unsettling, suspicious atmosphere to really plant any seeds of doubt in your mind.
As a result, The Interpreter, while enjoyable and intriguing from the start, is far from the enthralling and complex thriller it wants to be in its early stages. However, despite that rocky opening, the film really begins to pick up later on, finally developing that sharp sense of suspicion and uneasy political instability surrounding its main characters.
By the beginning of the second act, the film’s pace really begins to pick up, and rather than simply unfolding as a two hour-long build-up to one crescendo, The Interpreter surprises with a series of twists and mini-crescendoes in the middle of its story, both helping to up the pace and excitement factor of it all, while equally introducing more and more different characters, motivations and stakes that make the build-up to its final act all the more enthralling.
And with a couple more major twists, the stakes really pick up in the final act. Suspicion is rife wherever you look, Nicole Kidman’s initially prim and composed performance turns to one of strikingly exhausted, haggard emotion, and the complexity of the political intrigue really begins to hit home as all of the film’s different players begin to tie in together, setting up for a brilliant finale that really doesn’t disappoint.
So, overall, I really enjoyed The Interpreter. Although it gets off to a little bit of a rocky start with an unconvincing attempt to build a strong air of suspicion, the film eventually develops into a thoroughly exciting watch, with brilliant political complexity, engrossing character drama, consistently engaging performances and intriguing, surprising twists throughout, so that’s why I’m giving The Interpreter a 7.6.