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The Interpreter (2005)

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Political intrigue and deception unfold inside the United Nations, where a U.S. Secret Service agent is assigned to investigate an interpreter who overhears an assassination plot.


Sydney Pollack


Martin Stellman (story), Brian Ward (story) | 3 more credits »
3 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Nicole Kidman ... Silvia Broome
Sean Penn ... Tobin Keller
Catherine Keener ... Dot Woods
Jesper Christensen ... Nils Lud
Yvan Attal ... Philippe
Earl Cameron ... Zuwanie
George Harris ... Kuman-Kuman
Michael Wright ... Marcus
Clyde Kusatsu ... Police Chief Lee Wu
Eric Keenleyside ... Rory Robb
Hugo Speer ... Simon Broome
Maz Jobrani ... Mo
Yusuf Gatewood ... Doug
Curtiss Cook ... Ajene Xola (as Curtiss I'Cook)
Byron Utley ... Jean Gamba


Escalating events begin when U.N. interpreter Silvia Broome alleges that she has overheard a death threat against an African head of state, spoken in a rare dialect few people other than Silvia can understand. With the words "The Teacher will never leave this room alive," in an instant, Silvia's life is turned upside down as she becomes a hunted target of the killers. Placed under the protection of federal agent Tobin Keller, Silvia's world only grows more nightmarish. As Keller digs deeper into his eyewitnesses' past and her secretive world of global connections, the more suspicious he becomes that she herself might be involved in the conspiracy. With every step of the way, he finds more reasons to mistrust her. Is Sylvia a victim? A suspect? Or something else entirely? And can Tobin, coping with his own personal heartache, keep her safe? Though they must depend on one another, Silvia and Tobin couldn't be more different. Silvia's strengths are words, diplomacy and the subtleties of ... Written by Sujit R. Varma

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The truth needs no translation. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for violence, some sexual content and brief strong language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »


Official Sites:

Universal [United States]


UK | France | Germany | USA

Release Date:

22 April 2005 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Interpreter See more »


Box Office


$80,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$22,822,455, 24 April 2005

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Part of the deal that Mayor Bloomberg's office worked out with the producers was that in exchange for filming the movie in the U.N., the entire movie would have to be shot in N.Y. using N.Y. crews. See more »


The children in the arena are shown shooting AK-47s. This is a .30 weapon which is both relatively heavy and which has significant recoil. The children are shown handling the weapons and firing them with no problem , which given their sizes, would not be possible. See more »


[first lines]
Simon Broome: She wouldn't tell me her husband's name. She wouldn't even write it.
See more »


References College Hill (2004) See more »


Hey Grandma
Written by Jerry Miller (as Miller) and Don Stevenson (as Stevenson)
Performed by Moby Grape
Courtesy of Sony BMG Music Entertainment (UK) Limited
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User Reviews

The Dullness of Intrigue

Sydney Pollack has a remarkable capacity for bringing a story to a grinding halt. One is forced to wonder, when viewing one of his uninspired, poorly-shaped scenes, if Pollack is really all that enthusiastic about making movies, and wouldn't rather be off conducting a seminar on, oh I don't know, cabinet-making or something like that. There's so little of what might be described as cinematic spark in one of Pollack's movies that to call him the anti-Tarantino would not be a stretch. In one of Quentin's movies, the director's sheer love of cinema becomes infectious. When watching a Pollack film, the only thing that infects us is a nagging sense of a story getting bogged down in straight back-and-forth staging of dialogue, dry exposition and general listlessness.

The Interpreter could use an injection of energy not to mention a more convincing plot. The story details what happens when U.N. interpreter Nicole Kidman (looking jaundiced) claims to have overheard a foreign dignitary being threatened, and Secret Service agent Sean Penn (his head resembling a giant red cabbage) is brought in to determine the veracity of her story. This sets up a pretty straight-forward scenario: Kidman insists she's an innocent victim of circumstance, but the more Penn pokes around the more he has to wonder how much she really knows, and whether she's in on the potential assassination plot. The dynamic between Kidman and Penn, him wondering what she's really about and her wondering if she can really trust him, ought to provide some nice, tense under-currents in the dialogue scenes, but Pollack is so out-of-tune with anything that might be going on below the surface of the story that none of this is really taken advantage of. Forget about sub-text from Sydney Pollack - at most all he cares about is moving the story forward, and this he does haltingly at best. And if you're looking for a little spark from the dialogue you can forget it - it's mostly flat exposition, nothing that would goose the scenes with bits of innuendo or humor.

The movie is straight to the point of stodginess with one exception - the out-and-out bizarre performance of Nicole Kidman as the ex-militant who has come to believe in the apparatus of diplomacy. Kidman hit upon her personal brand of creepy intensity back in the days of Portrait of a Lady, a quality mostly transmitted through her huge, hypnotic eyeballs, and it finds its most concentrated, unnerving manifestation here. Kidman doesn't just seem intense in this movie, she seems possessed. True to form, Pollack makes little use of this peculiar, borderline-psychotic aspect of Kidman's performance, but the actress blazes ahead anyway, managing to inject a little crazy vibe into scenes that are otherwise drier than a Mormon kegger. It would've been great to see Kidman in this state, right on the edge of la-la-land, going toe-to-toe with Sean Penn in full rage-against-everything mode, but alas Penn is hampered by having nothing but a cliché grief-stricken law-man to play, and no lines worthy of anyone above a first-year drama student. Penn actually seems ready to drop off at any moment, which by itself is a commentary on the material. If you can't even keep your actors awake how can you hold an audience?

There are a couple moments when The Interpreter actually shudders awake, a few set-pieces where the action overtakes the general ennui, but these moments are only temporary respites from a story that is, on the whole, lacking in real conviction. Of course Pollack attempts to shoe-horn some politics into the movie, but his little not-so-subtle digs at Bushian unilateralism barely qualify as chiding, and the whole over-riding pro-human-rights theme smacks of self-importance. Pollack tries to drag his movie up out of suspense-film irrelevance by showing how much his characters care about humanity, but instead of raising the stakes on the story, this approach only further unbalances what is already a top-heavy endeavor. Instead of being interested in what he should be, character dynamic and plot mechanics for instance, Pollack gets wrapped up in the larger significance of things. He seems to have gone at the story from the top down, but all this does is leave him without a foundation. And you know what happens to houses that don't have foundations.

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