Sydney Pollacks new political-intrigue thriller, The Interpreter, is smart: the setting, the characters, the topic, the acting, the dialogue, the music. All smart. And, oh yes, with a script that could be smarter and a good deal more plausible
Nicole Kidman has the title role as an African-born U.N. interpreter who accidentally overhears a death threat against an African head of state soon to speak in the General Assembly.
Sean Penn is a U.S. Secret Service agent assigned to get to the bottom of the alleged assassination plot and stop it if its genuine or understand why Kidmans character has made up such a story.
Despite all the devices for who-dunit-ness and suspense, the words on the page just dont deliver enough to "make this dog hunt. The film is more a snazzy vehicle for Kidman and Penn to convey the angst of their roles into a camera focused very closely on their photogenic faces.
Kidman, another fine actor of the day, seems to be only in one emotional place in The Interpreter. Overwhelmed, over-intense and way too chilly as we try to determine where this erudite lady is coming from in the script.
Brief moments of Sydney Pollack, himself, as Penns on-screen supervisor and Catherine Keener as Penns dutiful Secret Service sidekick give the film other interesting faces and voices to glance at and hear. Keener, who should be seen more, doesnt really have enough in the picture to show her talent.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High notwithstanding, this may be Sean Penns crossover to mildly interesting, mainstream motion pictures. Im not sure if thats good news or bad news. It depends on the reason why one goes to see Penns movies.
To surpass the Oscar-winning performance he gave in Clint Eastwoods Mystic River (reviewed by Chew on this site) will take some doing, but with a good script, as I said, Penn has many more miles to go" to make an even more indelible impression on American Cinema.
Kidman, too, for that matter.
Copyright © 2005, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.