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The Interpreter


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Run Time:



Nicole Kidman

Sean Penn

Catherine Keener

Still shot from the movie: The Interpreter.

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Overall C
Run Time128

Making the Grades

African genocide is the premise for Sydney Pollack's latest drama, The Interpreter. However, unlike the Oscar-nominated movie Hotel Rwanda, which exposes that nation's mass murders, this film unfolds in the hallways of the United Nations Headquarters and spends very little time focused on the citizens of the made-up country of Matobo.

Instead, the action centers around Silvia Broome (Nicole Kidman), a foreign-born interpreter who has a grasp on several languages including one of Matobo's little known tribal dialects. It's the only reason she understands a whispered plot she overhears late one evening in her booth at the U.N. building.

Coming forward to the authorities, she reveals the plans to kill a dignitary during an upcoming visit. But with tensions already high over the official's arrival, she is considered as much a suspect as an informant. Unsure of credibility, the U.N. Security assigns a pair of federal agents to keep an eye on her.

Tobin Keller (Sean Penn) and his partner, Dot Woods (Catherine Keener), are two no-nonsense officers whose training makes them wary of everyone. Tapping in to the government's archives, they rifle through Silvia's past and uncover a dark history that raises their doubts about her allegations.

Still, Tobin's reservations about Silvia aren't enough to keep him from breaking the first cardinal rule in his line of work-don't get involved with the client. Whether it's the result of his general lack of sleep or his recent personal tragedy, his professional sensibilities (and the plot) are sidelined by the unlikely romantic involvement.

Opening with the brutal slayings of numerous characters and a room full of decomposing corpses, the film barely hangs on to its PG-13 rating as the body count continues to rise throughout the film. Along with the portrayal of stress-driven alcohol use and profanities, the movie also depicts the antics of a nearly naked striptease dancer performing for an overseas prime minister.

Additionally, the script is punctured with enough holes to leave even the most junior security personnel squirming in his shoes. Foreign terrorists on the streets of New York target officials and innocent victims alike, yet agents, who can evacuate an entire building in a matter of minutes, are unable to control the movements of the known rebels.

Doing its best to endorse the United Nations organization, the storyline promotes the use of peaceful dialogue in conflict resolution. But while it's preaching the power of words, guns seem to be the weapons of choice for the participants in this political thriller.

Discussion Ideas After The Movie

Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Interpreter.

What problems do countries face when trying to establish a democratic form of government? Why is it so difficult to break the cycle of tyranny and anarchy? What basic needs of the people must be met before a government can create long-term peace within its borders?

Established in October 1945, the United Nations is an international organization with 191 members whose goals include the promotion of human rights, reduction of poverty, protection of the environment and the fight against disease. For more information about the United Nations, go to:

Canadian Movie Ratings

14A Violence
AB 14A
MB 14A Mature Theme
ON PG Mature Theme, Not Recommended for Children, Violence
QC G Not Suitable for Children
Not Rated

Canadian Home Video Rating: 14A

Watch @ Home

Details on home video releases of The Interpreter...

DVD Release Date: 4 October 2005
Leaving nothing to be lost in translation, Universal Home Entertainment offers The Interpreter in either a wide or full screen version. (The DVD even includes a short educational piece on Interpreting Pan & Scan vs. Widescreen.) Eavesdrop on Director Sydney Pollack as he gives a running commentary about the film or spy on him at work during a featurette called From Concept to Cutting Room. Sneak a peek at deleted scenes and an alternate ending, or A Day in the Life of Real Interpreters. And find out why The Ultimate Movie Set: [is] The United Nations. Audio tracks are available in Dolby Digital, with close captioning provided.

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