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The Interpreter

So simple to decipher

Certain people possess a gift for unraveling the secrets behind thrillers far before the filmmaker intends for them to know. Itís a skill Iíve always secretly envied, yet have never been able to acquire despite ample moviegoing. So on those occasions that the proverbial light bulb illuminates 30 minutes into a film, repetition has taught me that I havenít grown smarter but that the next 60 minutes is going to be time I want but wonít get back.

Predictability permeates Sydney Pollackís The Interpreter, and given that itís his first effort in half a dozen years and uses capable actors like Sean Penn and Catherine Keener, this can only be characterized as disappointing. Penn plays the vulnerable-alcoholic-investigator TM called in when U.N. interpreter Sylvia Broome (Nicole Kidman) -- who to no oneís surprise has a dotted past -- overhears a clandestine conversation on the assembly floor discussing an assassination plot. Why the conspirators choose to discuss the plot at this location as well as why the microphones remain powered on 24-hours a day are just a small subset of the questions that arise in the mind of the discerning viewer, but are never answered.

What is strange about this film is that at certain points it clearly suggests the identities of the conspirators that it otherwise tries to conceal. Far from subtle clues that need to be pieced together by the observant viewer, they are moments where the camera intentionally remains on a character for no other reason than to imprint the idea that he will play a larger part in the conflict than it appears currently.

Insultingly stupid movies that somehow slither their way through the infinite levels of Hollywood bureaucracy can easily be explained as a consequence of an industry pandering to the publicís desire for mindless entertainment. Itís precisely why films like The Interpreter, which yearn to be smart but fail completely, are infinitely more disappointing despite being (marginally) better. What excuse do they have?

Stars: 2.5 out of 5