Becoming the first film to shoot inside the United Nations Headquarters, The Interpreter gains points for bringing a unique perspective to a typical thriller. It moves faster than the counter indicates, keeping up great pacing and Sydney Pollack keeps his main stars intertwined for incredibly tense sequences of dialogue. Unfortunately, it leads the viewer too much, becoming obvious and predictable early.
It appears as though this will become a deep, involving mystery, littered with throwaway characters in a desperate attempt to push the viewer off track. It's blatantly obvious from the early going that this will end up in a confrontation between Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman, the two with any actual depth or purpose to the story.
That's the best thing that could have happened to this film. We have two fantastic, capable actors for these roles, perfectly believable in their characters. Kidman's interpreter for the UN is an original position for a film, and though few people ever know the job, it feels authentic.
That leaves the film with a few tense, tightly directed sequences during the few one-on-one dialogue confrontations between the leads. This is when the film is at its best, briskly providing information in a natural style through standard Q & A sessions. Penn and Kidman are perfectly cast here.
Any dialogue is going to lose something when you know the outcome, and The Interpreter loses its grip when too much is given away early. The mystery is gone, the intended tension going right along with it. It's disappointing given the excellent setting and performances.
Even with its obvious flaws, those looking for a light mystery along with some great performances will find that movie in The Interpreter. It will be forgotten in a few years, mixing in with far better films that achieve what this one wanted to. It's worth pressing play if you're caught up with the rest of your library. Otherwise, you likely have better things to watch. (*** out of *****)
Colors are incredible for this 2.35:1 widescreen release. This is one of Pollack's rare widescreen films as he stopped using it after seeing his films butchered on VHS and TV when they used pan & scan. Thankfully for DVD, that's not a problem. It's not just the colors here, but the detail and contrast. It's been configured as perfect as can be expected. Grain is the only hindrance here, along with brief bouts of compression. (****)
For a film focused on dialogue, The Interpreter features a surprising 5.1 mix. Separation is superb, capturing movement as it occurs on the screen, whether in the rears or stereo channels. Bass is provided in a few sequences, and the film's sole explosion really comes alive because of it. It's not a home theater demonstration disc, but this will give audiophiles more than they expect. (****)
Extras here are decent, if under whelming. Pollack provides his own words in an active commentary track, discussing various difficulties during the shoot and the UN set-up. An alternate ending is a great highlight, and arguably should have stayed. It added an excellent cap to the film.
Three deleted scenes run just a little over two minutes, and serve their purpose as deletions. Sydney Pollack at Work will run about 10-minutes as the acclaimed director discusses his influences and career. There is some nice behind-the-scenes footage too. The Ultimate Movie Set: The United Nations is a look at the restrictions and battle to use the building for filming. This one is fun, showing what the crew needed to consider to achieve each shot, let alone be allowed in the building in the first place.
A Day in the Life of a Real Interpreter is exactly what it claims to be: a look at the actual job Nicole Kidman's character portrayed. It brings in multiple real interpreters to discuss how they do their job, and the importance of it. It's interesting if a bit dry, and runs about eight minutes.
Finally, Pollack explains the widescreen format and why it's used as it is. He picks specific portions of his film and crops them as they would be for the useless pan & scan market. His explanation is clear and precise. If you want more, you can also watch this brief interview clip in which the director explains his frustrations with the VHS market. (***)
Ramping up a rather bloated budget of $80 million, The Interpreter failed to make back its cost during its theatrical run. It doesn't look or feel like a major movie with a budget that size. That doesn't take away from its style and characters, neither of which would be the same without the actors involved.