Monday, October 10, 2005

The Interpreter

[Pic Courtesy IMDb]

The Interpreter is an absorbing political thriller. Its pace is a bit slower than movies that typically fall into the thriller genre but this allows it focus more on its characters and the interactions between them. And with actors like Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman, that’s a good thing!

Nicole Kidman plays an interpreter at the UN. The President of the African nation of Matobo, who is accused of genocide, is arriving at the UN to give a speech and Nicole overhears a plot to assassinate him. Nicole grew up in Africa and has bitter memories of her life there. So her feelings about the President lead the FBI agent (Sean Penn) assigned to the case to view her with suspicion.

The movie has an intriguing premise. The line between good and bad guys is usually pretty sharply drawn in political thrillers, with the target of the assassination and the guys protecting him being on the good side. But the President here is a ruthless dictator, who is almost universally disliked. And the people protecting him couldn’t care less if he died. They just don’t want it to happen in the U.N or on U.S soil. This adds a sense of unpredictability to the movie.

Both Penn and Kidman are fully fleshed out characters. They are wary of each other initially and I liked them better then. Their initial conversations sparkle as they trade barbs and comebacks at a rapid-fire pace. They both irritate and respect each other. The similar emotional baggage they both carry understandably softens their reactions towards each other as the movie proceeds. So they become closer though I was glad the director didn’t develop anything overtly romantic between them. But the fun of their initial meetings is replaced by something more ordinary.

The movie attempts to dig a little deeper than usual thrillers. In the background is a thread on revenge and whether it really helps achieve closure. A story about a custom in Africa is used as an effective anchor for this. It is realistic seeing the characters grapple with the hard choice the story offers and we understand where they stand on real-world issues through the option they select in the story.

Penn and Kidman are solid as usual. Both of them internalize their emotions well with Penn especially, being an expert at expressing internal pain. Fast cuts make the movie move faster than it actually is and add a sense of suspense to otherwise ordinary scenes. Scenes are also frequently intercut with the dialogs from one extending into the next. This is slightly disorienting at times but ensures that the movie has our full attention.

10 Comments:

At 12:10 AM, Blogger vee-jay said...

I loved this movie. Watched it twice in two days!!! Kidman and Sean Penn have performed extremely well.
Not to mention the dialogues in the movie - 'nach'-nu irundhadhu!!!
Also liked the intensity of Sean Penn's character. I haven't seen many Hollywood actors do intense roles. His performance is too good. I was so impressed by his performance in this movie that a few months later, I watched "The assassination of Richard Dixon" in which he had done a great job, but the movie was a big let down... Ha Ha Ha!!!
btw, this movie released in the western world last year itself..

 
At 1:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi bb,

saw the movie just a couple of days back .. was really impressed with the movie .. esp the performance of kidman, penn .. thought the editing was damn good ..

btw ... looking forward to ur majaa audio review ..

@run

 
At 7:16 AM, Anonymous Gopi said...

I couldn't follow quite a bit of the dialogue in this movie :( Maybe I wasn't paying attention...

 
At 7:23 AM, Blogger Preethi said...

Hi,
Completely agree with you. This was one awesome movie. Sean Penn was amazing. I mean e'body knows he is a gr8 actor...But there are some scenes in the movie where he perfectly underplays yet leaves a mark. Nicole Kidman did a good job too. Even I felt the movie was a little slow at a few places, but that did not stop me from watching it twice..:).

 
At 8:09 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

vee-jay, yep. agree on both counts - dialogs and acting. havent seen 'assasination of...' but i loved penn in 'mystic river', '21 grams', etc. the dvd just came out last tuesday. hence the late review :)

@run, me noticed the editing too. thats kinda what i was touching upon in the last couple of lines - fast cuts and overlapping dialogs.

gopi, couldn't follow? cos of the overlapping thing(that was a bit disorienting for me too initially)?

preeti, true. i think i even know which scenes u r talking about. amazing the way he just frowns or grimaces and is immediately able to convey so much emotion.

 
At 8:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard this is the first movie to be shoot in side real in UN Head quaters (General Assembly, north by north west - hitchkock wasn't allowed).

Good Movie. Excellent and intellegent screenplay, though slow at times as you guys mentioned.

The african language spoken by kidman is just created for this movie, there is no real language as such.

can't say any more regarding Penn and kidman for their excellent performance.

 
At 11:44 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

anon, yeah i read that too somewhere about being allowed in side UN. and its not just the language thats imaginary. the country of matobo itself is fictional.

 
At 10:32 PM, Blogger Babs said...

Fictional place like "Krakosia" in Spielberg's 'the Terminal' smart way of being political correct aiye, no controversy or political football.
May be we shd try that in our Indian movies too instead of caste and religion etc eg: Mandavar, Sudalai, Punaar, Namengar, etc...
Now lets see how these political parties create riots et al.
I understand the movie might not create a great deal of impact but nonetheless a good script wud.

 
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