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The Interpreter

3.2 9
Director: Sydney Pollack

Cast: Nicole Kidman, Sean Penn, Catherine Keener


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An overheard conversation leads a woman into a dark world of deadly intrigue in this political thriller. Silvia Broome (Nicole Kidman) is an African émigré who works as an interpreter at the United Nations. One of the languages she understands is Ku, a dialect spoken in her home country of Matobo. One day, as the General Assembly auditorium is being evacuated for a


An overheard conversation leads a woman into a dark world of deadly intrigue in this political thriller. Silvia Broome (Nicole Kidman) is an African émigré who works as an interpreter at the United Nations. One of the languages she understands is Ku, a dialect spoken in her home country of Matobo. One day, as the General Assembly auditorium is being evacuated for a routine security sweep, Broome overhears a man speaking in Ku, who makes a cryptic statement that could be interpreted as a threat against the life of Zuwanie (Earl Cameron), Matobo's controversial ruler. Secret Service agent Tobin Keller (Sean Penn) is brought in to investigate Broome's story, and it isn't long before he's convinced that she knows more than she's willing to tell. As Keller and his partner, Dot Woods (Catherine Keener), dig deeper into Broome's story as well as her past, they discover a shocking tale of violence and corruption tied to Zuwanie's regime. The Interpreter was directed by Sydney Pollack, who also appears in a brief supporting role.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
An unusually intelligent thriller that stretches credulity far less than most of its kind, The Interpreter has the added cachet of a plot that could easily have come right out of today's headlines. Nicole Kidman portrays a United Nations interpreter who claims to have overheard two men discussing a plan to assassinate an African reformer-turned-dictator planning to address the General Assembly. Assigned to investigate the matter, a U.S. Secret Service agent (Sean Penn) learns that the interpreter has a personal stake in the dictator's health that potentially undermines her credibility. Veteran director Sydney Pollack rather pointedly eschews melodrama, maintaining an almost documentary-like tone and interpolating background material that underscores the plight of poor Africans being victimized daily by their corrupt leaders. Perhaps even more impressively, he holds a lid on Penn, whose attention-drawing mannerisms and histrionic excesses sometimes overshadow the characters he plays. In fact, Pollack elicits terrific performances from everybody; Catherine Keener is excellent in the underwritten role of Penn's partner, and Jesper Christensen is appropriately smarmy as the dictator's shrewd security chief. The film's unsensational tone actually works against it when the plot briefly gets bogged down, but Pollack gins up suspense in the third act and brings The Interpreter to an eminently satisfying conclusion.
All Movie Guide - Perry Seibert
John Ford supposedly said the most compelling image you can put in a film is a human face. John Ford would have loved directing Sean Penn. As he moves into middle-age, Penn has not lost an ounce of his skill as an actor. He is unable to do anything that seems out of character. But now his face has developed lines that, along with the grey hairs at his temples, give him a lived-in-look that reinforces his ingrained authenticity. The scene that introduces his character makes no sense -- the viewer is given no information about why he is drinking alone, unplugging a jukebox, or listening to outgoing phone machine messages. But it is a compelling sequence thanks to Penn's talent and his look. You know the character is experiencing something deep and painful even if you have no idea what it is. Director Sydney Pollack knows how to use his actors well. Nicole Kidman's character is supposed to be more mysterious so she does not get to be as emotionally open as Penn, but she is his equal in their scenes together -- scenes that snap with sparkling multi-layered dialogue. Some might be understandably bothered by the use of African genocide as a backdrop for a glossy Hollywood thriller, but the film is about the characters more than the plot. The central relationship between the pair is so deftly played, written so note-perfectly, and directed with such respectful understatement that their give and take helps to keep the audience blind to the film's faults. A superb suspense sequence involving three different tailings that end up with all of the watchers and the watched on the same bus shows that Pollack still has a great deal of skill behind the camera. The Interpreter is slick Hollywood entertainment to be sure, but it works because Pollack understands the truism spoken by John Ford.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Universal Studios
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround]

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Nicole Kidman Silvia Broome
Sean Penn Tobin Keller
Catherine Keener Dot Woods
Jesper Christensen Nils Lud
Yvan Attal Philippe
Earl Cameron Zuwanie
Maz Jobrani Mo
George Harris Kuman-kuman
Michael Wright Marcus
Clyde Kusatsu Police Chief Lee Wu
Eric Keenleyside Rory Robb
Hugo Speer Simon Broome
Yusuf Gatewood Doug
Curtiss I'Cook Ajene Xola
Byron Utley Jean Gamba
Robert Clohessy FBI Agent King
Terry Serpico FBI Agent Lewis
David Fonteno Phillip Ostroff
John Knox Fred Jameson
David Zayas Charlie Russell
Lynne Deragon American Ambassador Davis
Christopher Evan Welch Jonathan Williams
Manuel Mawele African Boy
Dino Mulima African Boy
Litto African Boy
Adrian Martinez Roland
Tsai Chin Luan
Francine Roussel Isobel
Enid Graham Jenny
Lou Ferguson Matoban Ambassador
Okwui Okpokwasili Tour Guide
Vladimir Bibic G.A. President
Jacques Sebag French Ambassador
Pietro Gonzalez Chilean Ambassador
Patrick Ssenjovu Jad Jamal
Michael Patrick McGrath Jonathan Ferris
Paul De Sousa Portuguese Janitor
Chris McKinney Forensic Officer
Martha Elliott Woman On Bus
Jim Ward U.N. Security Officer
Trevor Archer U.N. Security Officer
Ricardo Walker U.N. Security Officer
Harry O'Reilly U.N. Security Officer
Kirby Mitchell U.N. Security Officer
Guy A. Fortt U.N. Security Officer
Ramsey Faragallah Polygraph Technician
John di Benedetto Mechanic
Bridget L. Doerksen Stripper
Ana Maria Lupo Stripper
Nelson Landrieu Spanish Speaking Interpreter
Leonid Citer Russian Interpreter
Satish Joshi Secretary General
Sophie Traub Young Silvia
Monty Ashton-Lewis Young Simon
Pat Kiernan Himself
Margot Staub News Reporter
Harry W. Prichett News Reporter
Ed Onipede Blunt News Reporter
Diane Winter British Airways Ticket Agent

Technical Credits
Sydney Pollack Director,Executive Producer
Tim Bevan Producer
G. Mac Brown Executive Producer
Liza Chasin Co-producer
Sarah Edwards Costumes/Costume Designer
Eric Fellner Producer
Scott Frank Screenwriter
Debra Hayward Co-producer
James Newton Howard Score Composer
Jon Hutman Production Designer
Darius Khondji Cinematographer
Anthony Minghella Executive Producer
Kevin Misher Producer
Charles Randolph Screenwriter
William Steinkamp Editor
Martin Stellman Original Story
Brian Ward Original Story
Steven Zaillian Screenwriter

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- The Interpreter
1. Good Day to You [5:43]
2. At the U.N. (Main Titles) [5:44]
3. International Predicament [7:11]
4. The Secret Service [6:13]
5. Credible Threat [7:42]
6. No Misinterpretations [4:13]
7. Under Surveillance [8:22]
8. Being Honest [8:00]
9. Risky Rendezvous [6:22]
10. Losing Sleep [6:13]
11. Boarding the Bus [5:54]
12. An Act of Terrorism [4:30]
13. Bad Politics [:04]
14. Confirmed Dead [7:31]
15. Gone Missing [6:55]
16. The Target has Arrived [7:19]
17. Assassination Attempt [5:34]
18. In the Safe Room [5:22]
19. Going Home [9:17]
20. End Titles [5:22]


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The Interpreter 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This movie was played out to be a suspensful thriller that would leave you guessing until the very end. This was the complete opposite of how the actual movie turned out. Half-way through the movie, a friend of mine said out- loud (and to noone in particular) "So, when does it get good?" That statement sums up my feelings throughout the entirity of the movie. Also, the "plot twist" is very predictable, and the conclusion of the story makes no logical sense because of the circumstances that take place in the climax of the story. All in all, just a waste of time, which I wish I had back.
Guest More than 1 year ago
On the one hand you have swashbuckling pirates, air- born car chases and machines rising from the soil, inhabited via lightning bolts – all great experiences in their own ways. And on the other hand, there is a refreshing break from the above in The Interpreter. I solidly agree with Roger Ebert’s “B” rating and statement, "...a taut and intelligent thriller..." If you view being encouraged to think through a movie as a pleasant exercise, try this film.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Note to Pollack- Next time you want to make a political thriller, please have some elements of suspense in the film. I kept checking my watch through the entire film because it was so boring. Kidman has done better in films like Moulin Rouge & Dead Calm and so has Penn in Mystic River & 21 Grams- he doesn't bring anything new to the role of a man in grief that we haven't seen before. What I wanted to see more of was Catherine Keener as Penn's wisecracking partner, but alas we never do. She was great in Death To Smoochie and the 40 Year Old Virgin.
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