In 1945, the leaders of the world formed a charter to create the United Nations in an attempt to prevent conflicts that resulted in the Second World War. Unlike the
League of Nations before it, the U.N. as it is often known has endured over time, and has seen its membership grow over the years.
In the new film The Interpreter, Nicole Kidman stars as Sylvia Broom, an interpreter at the U.N. who spends her days translating various languages into English during various meetings and assemblies.
One evening Sylvia returns to the U.N. after hours to retrieve a bag that she had left in a sound booth. Unexpectedly, Sylvia hears a whispered conversation over the speakers in an African dialect know only to a few people, herself being one of them.
Despite some reservations Sylvia does not report her discovery until the following morning, when some odd circumstances come into play. Chief amongst them is the discovery that the person referred to in the conversation as “The Teacher” is very likely a controversial African leader who is on his way to address the U.N. in an effort to avoid being placed on trial by the World Court for atrocities.
Assigned to investigate the case is Tobin Keller (Sean Penn), an F.B.I. agent who has recently lost his wife and despite his grief, is throwing himself into his work. Tobin is skeptical over Sylvia’s report as he finds it odd that she just happened to overhear a conversation in a language that only a handful of people in the country, she included could understand. Tobin’s instincts tell him that this is simply a ploy to cancel the pending visit allowing political rivals to claim power in the absence of the African leader.
Under the thought that it is better to be safe than sorry, Tobin begins to investigate the case, and soon has far more questions than answers. It becomes clear that Sylvia is hiding something, and may indeed have a connection to the plot.
When Sylvia reports a break in and a masked figure on her balcony, Tobin and his team set up surveillance of Sylvia in an effort to get to the bottom of the plot With time definitely not on their side, more questions than answers keep emerging especially when prime suspects begin to vanish, and later turn up dead, or become victims in a horrific act of terrorism leaving Tobin to put the pieces together and protect the African leader at all costs.
While the film has a good premise and cast, it is sunk by a very dull and plodding plot, that drags on for over two hours and fails to pay off. The film could easily have had thirty minutes trimmed from its running time and not lost much of the story. While this may be a matter of stylistic preference what cannot be overlooked are the films glaring lack of tension or suspense and the sad lack of chemistry between Kidman and Penn. While theirs is not a romantic relationship, Penn seems as if he is being restrained as his part does not allow his talents to show.
The same goes for Kidman, who seems to be having trouble with her accents, as she flips between American, and African tinted accents throughout the film and seems at times to be simply going through the motions.
What is most puzzling to me is how a gifted director like Sydney Pollack allows the film to go on and on without any suspense or real dynamic to the story. It just keeps plodding along and never seems to go anywhere. It does not build up to the finale, it just happens and with some uninspired twists. It was very obvious to me from the start of the film who was behind the plot. There are some red herrings in the film but they seem tacked on rather than natural elements to the plot.
2 stars out of 5