Everyone in every single American intelligence agency is a bloody idiot. No, that assertion isn't based on current world events (although...), but on the behaviour of the spooks in this professionally packaged, occasionally stupid, pretty enjoyable thriller. Approach it in the same spirit as Tony Blair wants you to imbue the news: without thinking. Because, if you tug on any element of this house of cards, it comes tumbling down. But Sydney Pollack is a pro and while The Interpreter lacks sense and (badly) a sense of humour, the smart casting, shimmering cinematography (from Se7en's Darius Khondji) and a couple of exciting set-pieces make for the sort of solid, undemanding entertainment which Daily Mail readers consider masterful. If you thought The Manchurian Candidate remake was, like, edgy then The Interpreter will drive right up the middle of your road.
The leads lend it warmth and interest, simply by being stars. Sean Penn's grieving secret service agent doesn't really convince, partly because it seems so unlikely a recently bereaved, unstable individual would be tasked with undoing an assassination to be attempted in the publicity glare of the General Assembly of the United Nations. But Sean Penn, The Star: well, he's great. Just wonderful to watch - the panel-beaten face, granite-worn brow and feel-my-pain eyes. Opposite him, Nicole Kidman is pristine. Do you ever really think she's a white African language whiz with a bruised and bloodied past? Not really. There's nothing here as raw and real as her astonishing work in Dogville. But she is bewitchingly beautiful and watching her dextrous wordplay with Penn (which bears the crafted hallmarks of co-writer Scott Frank) is undemandingly pleasing.
Shot at the real UN building in New York, the setting is diverting, but while the film thinks it's Liberal and Serious it never presents anything challenging... And perhaps its biggest flaw is believing itself to be more important than it actually is. Hitchcock touched briefly on the United Nations in North By Northwest, but did so with lightness and cheek. Without such touches, The Interpreter struggles to stop audience interest eventually drifting South.
Both polished and preposterous, Sidney Pollack's glossy thriller is fine MOR entertainment if you can forgive the idiocy of its characters.
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