For many viewers like myself, the only lasting incentive of watching 'The Interpreter' is a good look inside the walls of the actual UN headquarters in New York. No set pieces, no reconstruction, just the real thing. Global publicity aside, much of which unintentionally (or intentionally) became a part of the production process last year, 'The Interpreter' is itself is a rather disappointing movie.
Even though director Sydney Pollack gives the finished material a polished look and great springboard from which to leap into some terrific thriller territory, there is no urgency and too many slow midway patches preventing the package from being viewed as anything more than procedural work for all the big names involved with this. Those names, in the grand tradition of Pollack playing it safe with well known stars, include Sean Penn as a Secret Service agent, looking distraught at possibly being given second billing and Nicole Kidman, interestingly playing a convincing white African from the fictional nation of Matobo, who works as the titular interpreter at the UN and becomes embroiled in a conspiracy involving the assassination of a wanted leader from her home country on US soil.
It has been called intelligent, which it is in the same way that Kevin Smith's dialogues make his movies intelligent in their smart repertoire of words. That does not however make the plot for Smith's 'Clerks' anymore clever as a comedy than the one for 'The interpreter' is as a thriller, and though both the movies cannot be compared, 'Clerks' is still the better of the two because it is more successful at what it sets out to do.
Still, being one who appreciates so called, slow moving, introspective thrillers, I was appreciative of 'Interpreter's' reliance on dialogue and character shadiness to try and create the tone and atmosphere, but after a good start that perhaps dived into the main story a little too quickly, the basic premise shifted gears and parked in relationship territory for far too long. Waiting for something interesting to happen on screen felt like tossing in bed for sleep to arrive and this aspect of the movie consisting of scant voyeurism, personal loss and chase scenes, something Pollack pulled off with much greater consequence in his other thriller '3 days of the Condor', got the better of what remained as potential for a good suspense yarn. It's easy to see what his muse for the movie were – traditional political thrillers, taking inspiration from the great lot of the 70's classics - but those films had two things which 'Interpreter' lacked and last years superb 'Manchurian candidate' had in plenty: paranoia and mood. By those aspects, it would not be an exaggeration to say that like the world body in whose offices it is set the 'Interpreter' turns out to be a film big on presence but small on effectiveness. - Faizan Rashid