Thursday 28 April 2005

The Interpreter (2005) - ickleReview (cinema)

Political thriller starring Nicole Kidman as an interpreter at the UN in New York, who thinks she overhears a plot to assassinate the president of Matobo, a fictional African republic (perhaps a thinly veiled poke at Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe). Sean Penn is the secret services agent assigned to foreign dignitories' protection and to investigate Kidman. This is truly in post-9/11 mode with frenzied security measures, some of which are bafflingly subverted at the end of the movie: a sniper rifle is concealed in a toilet near the UN General Assembly; one of the safe rooms designed for emergencies turns out not to be very secure at all; and the threatened president is allowed to carry his own pistol on him when making his address to the General Assembly.

Two thirds of this film is smart and fast-moving, refusing to be pedagogic in its plotting. I give it credit for this because I often criticize American movies for insulting the intelligence of their audiences by explaining everything as if to a retarded child. However, it's not always clear what's going on - but maybe that's a good representation of what our climate of fear can do to us. There is a bus-bombing sequence, which is remarkably plausible and - as one of the newscasters says in the movie - is more reminiscent of the Middle East than Brooklyn.

The relationship between Kidman and Penn is rather stunted (perhaps a plot-line that was thinned out in the editing). At one point, it looks as if they are about to kiss in what would have been a ridiculous miscalculation of mood. Wisely, Director Sydney Pollack saves us from this barf-fest. Yet another question must be raised over heavy product placement: Nikon, Dell, Apple and Pepsi - but perhaps this is more indicative of my own brand-awareness and the saturation of the American capitalist landscape, than Spielbergesque selling out.

Nugget: perhaps worth a second viewing a few months or years down the line to see whether the plot really does stitch together. Nevertheless, this time round, expect a lingering sense of dissatisfaction to follow you home from the theatre.

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