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Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > Drama > The Interpreter (Widescreen)

The Interpreter (Widescreen)


Picture: B-     Sound: B     Extras: B-     Film: B-



Sydney Pollack has been known for his thrillers, showing a masterful grasp of the genre, with his last being a huge hit.  That was The Firm in 1993, which did not always work for this critic, but showed a love for the classical style of the genre and tried to balance that with modern sensibilities.  His new thriller The Interpreter (2005) did not start with a John Grisham book, not even a script.  However, after casting Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn in one of this year’s more interesting pairings, then getting Charles Randolph, Scott Frank & Steven Zaillian to do a screenplay off of the Martin Stellman/Brian Ward story, he was quickly on track.  Most directors, especially recent ones, would have botched this beyond belief.  He did the opposite.


Unfortunately, some conventions and archetypes of the thriller are here, yet Pollack’s judgment, professionalism, experience and instincts pull through, creating one of the better-crafted A-level Hollywood productions in the genre in a while.  There is pace and substance, versus the unfortunate tendency to hit the audience over the head all the time.  Another factor in the excitement of the film is the fact that Pollack has returned to the widescreen scope frame he has not used for 20 years and by default, tons of ideas have built up in as to what to do with the frame.  In this film, the return of the repressed comes out in all kinds of interesting ways, making for a unique visual experience that just heightens the suspense and placement aspects of the film.  Those who love cinema of the 1970s will love that aspect.


Credit should also go to Kidman, still an underrated actress, pulling of an empathetic performance as the title character.  As Silvia Broome, she wants to believe in diplomacy and has obviously devoted her life to this, but that peaceful existence has been disrupted when she hears a potential murder plot in another language.  Now, her own life may be in jeopardy, as those whispering in the dark may just want her dead.  When they get onto her, an investigating federal agent (Sean Penn) starts investigating her, but Tobin Peter (Penn) first investigates as to whether she should be put on a crank list.  As the audience, we know better that she’s not lying, so his approach only keeps her in jeopardy and things can only get crazier.


Penn keeps getting criticized for his politics, which as far as I am concerned, he can spout about them anytime he pleases.  In real life, he remains one of our best actors and is a bonafide box office star, something his critics want us to forget.  As he proved with his remarkable, grossly overlooked performance in The Assassination Of Richard Nixon, he is one of the only actors today who constantly takes risks.  Between Penn & Kidman, their possibly romantic relationship recalls Gene Hackman & Anne Archer in Peter Hyams’ terrific remake of Narrow Margin (1990, reviewed elsewhere on this site) if not as action packed and intensely paced.  I like the idea that the leads do not necessarily become lovers straight off, the way it is in real life.  It is subtle touches like that, which make The Interpreter one of the few recent mature offerings in the genre, even if it has a few shortcomings.


The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image was shot in real anamorphic scope with Arri cameras and Cooke scope lenses by the great cinematographer Darius Khondji, A.S.C, A.F.C., though some of the depth has been taken out and color taken out by the process of using a Digital Intermediate from Kodak’s effective E-Film division by Khondji himself.  The result is a cross between the darker look Khondji has brought to films like David Fincher’s Seven (very dark and desaturated) and that of Pollack’s scope films of long ago, like They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, Three Days Of The Condor and The Yakuza.  All the stocks used are Kodak’s and this is as fine a transfer as you will see of such material on DVD, though I miss the clarity of colorfulness of the earlier Pollack films.  However, Khondji is one of the best in the business and his darker, desaturated films are far more clever and articulate than his thousands of talentless imitators, many of whom are outright hacks who shoot colorless because they are clueless as to what to do with color.


The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix is one of the best such mixes we have heard on DVD to date, with great depth, detail and articulation for the AC-3 signal.  It still sounds like a DTS tracks would have offered more, but I want to give Dolby credit where credit is due.  James Newton Howard delivers another solid score.  Extras include a good audio commentary by Pollack where he paces his comments by letting the film happen in parts & then commenting, an alternate ending that does not work as well as the final one, three deleted scenes that are not bad, and four featurettes about the film.  One interviews real female interpreters at the United nations, one is Pollack discussing the difficulty of mounting any film production let alone an A-level film like this, one on shooting at the U.N. and a great piece by Pollack on why widescreen is better than butchering it for TVs.  All around a solid new DVD for a solid new film that did some box office business and deserves to do much more now.  As for Pollack, it is a personal return of sorts that may lead to more stunning films very soon.  We can’t wait!



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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