‘Interpreter’ is a top-notch thriller | TahoeDailyTribune.com

‘Interpreter’ is a top-notch thriller

Howie Nave

Nicole Kidman plays African-born U.N. interpreter Silvia Broome in "The Interpreter."

Every once in a while, when the planets align and the movie gods shine upon the stars, a great product is produced that everyone can boast about. Such a movie is “The Interpreter.”

When the director is Sydney Pollack, that alone signals a good movie. When the actors are Oscar winners Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn … well, need I say more? I’m not even a Sean Penn fan, but he is an incredible and versatile actor. Both of them play off each other with such an intensity that you almost wonder, where in their minds do they go to bring out such a wide range of emotions? Then again, with a director such as Pollack, it’s easy to see where that range is harvested.

I watched some of Pollack’s earlier works to see how he was able to bring out the absolute best in his actors. Who could forget Robert Redford’s dynamic intensity in Pollack’s political thriller “Three Days of the Condor” from 1975? Or how about 1993’s “The Firm” with Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman? Suffice to say, Sydney Pollack knows how to keep one’s interest when it comes to watching dramas with a surprise ending. Maybe because Pollack is also an actor, he can connect with them and gain their trust and respect. He also cast himself in a small role playing an adviser to Penn’s character in this movie.

Kidman plays Silvia Broome, a South African-born U.N. translator/interpreter. Kidman tones down her usual stunning good looks and goes the more conservative route, adding to the believability factor in her role. Add to that her complex past and we get to see a Nicole Kidman stripped not just of her exterior glamour but also stripped internally as well. In short, we get a multifaceted individual not easily readable upon first meeting.

Silvia overhears what she believes to be a plot to assassinate the dictator of the fictional African state of Matobo as he addresses the General Assembly. Sean Penn is FBI agent Tobin Keller who, upon investigating her claim, realizes Silvia may have an agenda all her own. Penn’s character, too, is complex and a bit jaded, adding to the depth of what it is he believes that she says. Both actors shine in their respective identities.

“The Interpreter” has been touted as the first film ever to be shot inside the United Nations Headquarters. Film purists will argue that this is false, citing the 1953 drama “The Glass Wall” as being shot inside that complex first. However, the building was brand new back then and hadn’t been staffed yet with members of the U.N. Assembly. Still, in an era of constant terror alerts and tight security, having this movie shot inside the U.N. headquarters is almost unheard of and a major coup for Pollack to have pulled off regardless. Some of the scenes were shot in the actual General Assembly and the Security Council including corridors and hallways throughout the complex. Many of the extras include U.N. staff members.

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“The Interpreter” is a good, old-fashioned drama/thriller that reads like a book on the big screen. There are no short cuts or pandering to the viewing audience. Anyone with an ounce of intelligence will appreciate this and in turn believe in the actors who have created these characters worth caring about. Add to that the character of New York City itself, and you get one enjoyable piece of work here. The city serves as the backdrop for the action taking place and, wow, what action.

The drama is top-notch throughout. There’s one scene involving a crowded downtown commuter bus that will have you leaping out of your seat. I still have second thoughts now getting on one. Much of that credit goes to cinematographer Darius Khondji, who knows how to capture Pollack’s vision and share it with the rest of us.

– Howie Nave is the host/emcee/manager of The Improv at Harveys Tuesday through Sunday nights. You can hear him on seven radio stations every Friday morning reviewing movies in Northern California and Nevada, including KRLT in Lake Tahoe and KOZZ out of Reno. Watch him every Saturday and Sunday on Tahoe’s KMTN TV doing movie and video reviews.