[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.