Friday, April 22, 2005

Movie Review: Interpreter

Divorced from reality and not looking to reconcile anytime soon.

While I try not to let political views affect how I feel about the quality of a movie, with this one that is almost impossible to do. It's not hard to see why the Interpreter was the first movie to be given such unrestricted access to the United Nations building in downtown New York. The entire movie is essentially a giant ad for why the UN is still relevant to today's world. The only problem is that this UN, as shown through the Hollywood lens, shares little in common with the real one.

The entire premise of this film is that the brutal dictator of an African nation is so afraid of a UN resolution calling for him to stand trial for crimes against humanity that he has to come to New York to personally defend himself. There is no mention of any type of military action against him, in fact the very idea of that is dismissed several times as being against what the UN stands for, just a resolution. This may sound good on paper, but in reality UN resolutions come and go with very few nations paying them much heed.

Even more preposterous is the fact that it is France, of all countries, who is trying to push the resolution in question through the general assembly. (This is the same France who's Premier just the other day while on a state visit to China said the French have no problems with Chinese military actions to prevent Taiwan from seceding as well as called for the lifting of the arms embargo between the EU and China. Just a bunch of peace loving hippies they are.)

Even with the UN's baggage removed the story has some problems that come directly from the writers needs to move things along to a certain forgone conclusion. The biggest example of these is the use of the standard technique of exaggerated hesitation. That's is when one character decides not to bothering filling another one in on very important information when it's most needed. Say when you are standing in a bomb makers 'lab' and you are on the phone with an agent who is standing a few feet from said bomb maker (who just happens to be carrying a satchel). Why would you bothering filling the agent on the scene in on that particular bit of info when instead you can ask several unnecessary questions and bark orders without explanation. Because directly telling the agent that "he's got a bomb!" would make the rest of the scene very hard to get to the point you need to further your story. Overall a very lazy job of writing.

They even go so far as to try to build sympathy for the man responsible for the genocide in his own country by showing him look disappointed that the parades and celebrations of his arrival in NYC of a few decades ago have now been replaced by angry protestors. As if to show that even though thousands upon thousands of innocent people are being killed by his orders, he's just a man and has feelings too.

The acting on the other hand is above average. Of course with Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman as the leads that was to be expected. Although Penn's character of the trouble Secret Service agent is one that shares many traits with several of his past roles, you can easily see the reason that he is often called to play that part and Kidman is perfect as the interpreter who alternates between being defiant and terrified.

However, even with the good acting, there is little else in this movie to make it worth recommending.

If all you want to see is Nicole Kidman running around New York trying to save lives, rent The Peacemaker instead.

2 out of 5
(mostly because while looking at Kidman I can forget about the rest of the story for a little bit.)


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