The Interpreter (2005) - Widescreen Edition

Genre(s): Crime / Drama / Mystery / Thriller
Universal || PG13 - 128 minutes - $14.98 || October 4, 2005
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2005-09-29


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Sydney Pollack
Writer(s): Martin Stellman (story) & Brian Ward (story), Charles Randolph (screenplay) and Scott Frank (screenplay) and Steve Zaillian (screenplay)
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Sean Penn, Catherine Keener


Theatrical Release Date: April 22, 2005


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Director Commentary
  • Alternate Ending
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Sydney Pollack at Work
  • Interpreting Pan & Scan vs. Widescreen
  • Ultimate Movie Set: The United Nations
  • Day in the Life of Real Interpreters


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

IMAGE

The Interpreter is a taut, well crafted political thriller starring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn. Some might find the film to be slow especially if they expect action packed scenes, but this movie is much smarter than that. It's well paced with director Sydney Pollack allowing the characters to become the focal point rather than some thrown together, incoherant action sequences. Now granted, I must admit these characters are not as gripping as they could/should have been, but put together with some tense moments and an interesting conspiratorial plot, it works.

As for repeat value (why else buy a DVD?), The Interpreter is a solid thriller that even when you know the twist or end result, the movie is still entertaining and worthwhile. Now, I do believe the movie could've been more with the talent associated with it, but as is, it's a fine film.

It is rare, but once in a while a film comes around that manages to bring forth a solid plot and in depth characters... and The Interpreter does just that!

Sydney Pollack's latest thriller stars Nicole Kidman as Silvia Broome, an interpreter for the United Nations who one night, after retrieving something, she overhears an assassination plot against an African president Zuwanie; a man who used to be hailed as a liberator, is now responsible for thousands of deaths in his own country. Secret Service agents Tobin Keller (The Assassination of Richard Nixon) and Dot Woods (Keener) are assigned to protect Zuwanie and in turn Broome as she is the only lead to this possible death threat.

I think there-in is why I liked this drama-thriller so much. Although the plot can become a bit tedious with so many suspects and complications, it never treats the audience like idiots. Director Pollack has crafted this taut thriller with such precision that he assumes the audience can not only follow it, but have a good time at it as well (versus concentrating so much on a plot that everything else passes by). And with all that, this is Pollack's first film since 1999's Harrison Ford/Kristin Scott Thomas romantic-drama, Random Hearts (a film a found almost unbearable).

In the beginning I had some concerns. One, the film's pace was... slow, to say the least. Although the plot was being set up and characters introduced, I found it hard to pay attention to what was going on. However, by the final third I found myself figuratively at the edge of my seat (though this was literal for some in the theater) and I realized that without those "slow" moments, I don't think the end would have been as powerful as it was, so for that, I cannot fault the film.

What makes this thriller great isn't really the plot -- although that aspect is solid, it's the amazing acting from our two leads, who both give quiet yet emotionally centered performances which ring true. The trouble most films have today is plenty of them cast two "beautiful" leads who are forced together for their chemistry and although Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman indeed have chemistry, they are thrown into such chaos that neither have the time (or even energy) to do anything else.

The reason for this chemistry lies within their backgrounds. Both of these characters have lost someone close to them and no matter how much time has passed (in the case of Keller, it wasn't that long ago), the pain still exists. This element is explored fairly extensively amongst the suspense and is one of the things so surprising about this film.

The Interpreter is a solid dramatic-thriller headlined by two excellent performances from screen veterans Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman (both of whom rarely turn in a poor performance despite a movie's direction or story), but in this case they perform up to the high standards this plot has. For me, The Interpreter went above and beyond my expectations which were, to be honest, almost nill. The trailers made the movie look like your usual political thriller with two good leads, but what I got out of it instead was not only two great performances but two in-depth characters any film wished it had.

In the end, The Interpreter is a tight thriller that you will not be disappointed in seeing. For those of you who are inpatient, if you find yourself bored, please stick with it because it will pay off.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

The extras on the disc are actually pretty solid, although nothing really stands out... well, save for one featurette.

The commentary track from director Pollack has much to be desired. I was hoping for an engaging and informative track, but what's there instead are minor factoids, character backgrounds and scene subtexts... Also, toward the earlier part of the movie, there are large gaps so I don't know if he recorded different segments or what, but the gaps usually lasted anywhere between a minute or so to as much as 10 minutes. In the end, this was a very disappointing track since Pollack seems like a guy who is interesting to listen to (and passionate his projects). In this case, he does go over the aspects of making a good thriller (and how normally the endings in that genre tend to disappoint) and how much he appreciated having top-notched actors perform tons of dialogue. I think he would've benefited from a producer or one of the 5 writers to bounce ideas off of.

SPOILER
The alternate ending is a slight variation on what was seen in theaters. In this version instead of Silvia reading the names from the journal, it's Zuwanie reading in front of the UN assembly. This ending is just too hokie: Silvia stands next to Zuwanie and translates how the victims died. Not nearly as powerful as the original...
END SPOILER

There are 3 deleted scenes, two of which don't really add much and the other, where Silvia rides in the car with Dot (Keener). They talk about Tobin (Penn) and reveal the same stuff he had already told Silvia. This conversation also brings up perhaps a romantic, or potential romantic, relationship between Dot and Tobin. Interesting but introduces a new angle that cannot be fulfilled.

Sydney Pollack at Work: From Concept to Cutting Room is fairly simple and features comments from Pollack talking about how the film came about. For instance, actors Kidman and Penn had signed on before a script had even been completed. He also mentions writing some of the scenes on the spot and his hesitation on the bus explosion (and whether people would feel he was being exploitive about it). Like I said, it's simple, but Pollack is interesting to watch and listen to so it is worthwhile.

The best featurette on this disc, and for those DVD enthusiasists out there, is Interpreting Pan & Scan Vs. Widescreen where director Pollack passionately talks about the differences between the two and what is done to make a film shot in widescreen and then converted to full for TV viewing. Beyond the demonstrations Pollack makes (showing what is cropped out and how much is taken away from a scene), he also makes a plea to keep the integrity of the filmmaker's work and not have someone else come in and change it. If you're someone who's interested in the process of Full Frame and Widescreen, then this is a fun featurette to watch. As an FYI, The Interpreter is the first film in more than 20 years that Pollack has shot in widescreen...

The Ultimate Movie Set: The united Nations goes into some detail on how they managed to film there when no one else has before. This also covers the logisitics issues as the general assembly could call for a meeting within a three hour notice, so they had to set things up very meticulously. Something that interest me while watching was, while in the general assemmly (or it might've been the Security Council room), they blurred out something on the wall. As only a occasional news watcher, I don't know what it was so if anyone knows, feel free to e-mail me.

Lastly, A Day in the Life of Real Interpreters is an 8-minute featurette with interviews with the real people who work at the U.N. They talk about what they do, how they do it, the importance of it and also the importance of not screwing up or interpreting words correctly (as it might change the entire message). Nothing of note, though I did find out they like to be called interpreters rather than translators as the two professions are different.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

IMAGE

Visually, The Interpreter looks great. The rich look of the U.N., the darker tone for the thrilling aspects come across just fine. I didn't notice anything off about it, which it should be since it's a recent release. As mentioned before, Pollack filmed this in widescreen so you are getting all the visuals from Africa to the U.N. to New York City.

I was a little worried about the sound, however. James Newton Howard's score comes out of the speakers very well, but some of the gun fire, explosion, or just general background noises seemed to be a tad muted to me. They lacked any real depth plus the dialogue seem to only come through the center screen. Anyways, all in all, it's fine, but I hoped for something better.



.::OVERALL::.

This DVD has some very good elements about it, beyond the solid thriller itself. The special features while not outstanding and could've been better, are decent enough. A couple featurettes are interesting to watch so for a one-time viewing, they're worthwhile. In this case, The Interpreter is a good movie to buy because of the film rather than just the features. It's a solid enough political thriller that, after seeing it now three times, still holds my attention.