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The Interpreter

DVD Four Stars

There were some harsh words of this movie on release, and a few comments I saw which slated both the performances of Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn, and that had me curious. The film was written and directed by Sydney Pollack and had three big stars in it, Catherine Keeler included, and the story sounded really strong. Could it really be that bad?

So I had to see the film and understand what had happened to a story that had so much potential, and above all I had to see the film because of Penn.


Once again I was surprised at the disparity between the reviews of a film and the actual viewing after the pressure of release has cleared. Sometimes I do wonder if a few bad reviews can build momentum and despite how good a movie may actually be, the tide of negativity grows against it. Perhaps after some time has passed from the release date the movie can be viewed for what it actually is.

That's about where I came to see The Interpreter. I'd heard some pretty poor things about the film when it was released, and now when I actually get to view the film, I'm surprised at how good it is.

The performances from both Penn and Kidman are superb. Penn gives a very restrained and troubled performance, something that he is particularly good at, and Kidman does something that every now and again she surprises me with. She really can act and turn around her normal Nicole Kidman performance to something particularly strong and emotive.

The way they play off each other is perhaps the highlight of this movie, they give us some incredibly tender and intense moments. I really did enjoy the scenes when these two were together, although it would often feel loose and quite natural, the direction and editing was very tight and built the tension and emotion between the two characters slowly and steadily.

It's a very emotive film overall, from the killing of innocents, to the accountability of leaders, and even on the smallest level of the pain that Penn's character feels. Nowhere is this more evident than in the scenes of his returning to his flat and the answering machine, even when calling it from the bar. All these scenes are superbly written and directed and bring together the different emotional levels of the film.

The bus scene is perhaps one of the strongest moments of the film, and the only real action sequence. The tension is built early on with the separate threads of the story being pulled together, and these scenes are continue on for some time while you are still unsure of what is actually about to happen. The final piece slots into place almost too late, and it's enough to make you jump slightly.

This whole sequence, including the build up, is written, directed and edited extremely well and goes to show what a strong talent Sydney Pollack is. Here we see some of the best direction, editing and acting of the entire film, and the moment of realisation, as well as the aftermath, continues the powerful feel.

The ending that is featured with the final film is good, and it's particularly good because the Hollywood temptation is not too far away, but never taken. The love story is restrained, and remains very much in the background, more one of friendship.


Presented: 2.35:1 Anamorphic
The picture is strong and handles well between bright sunlight, dark interiors, and the inside of the UN. Colours and lighting are very natural and nothing took my eye off of the actors.


Presented: Dolby Digital 5.1
Good audio, particularly during the action sequence. With a film more focussed on dialogue there's not a great need to use the speakers in this audio track, still at times sounds do move around the room and when there's a need they are used.


Presented: Audio commentary with Sydney Pollack, Deleted scenes, Alternative ending , The Ultimate Movie Set - The United Nations, A Day In The Life Of Real Interpreters, Sydney Pollack At Work - From Concept To Cutting Room, Interpreting Pan & Scan vs Widescreen

Audio Commentary:
It's very interesting to find that Pollack will go back and make a lot of fillers to fix the pace of a movie, and this is something you learn a lot about during the commentary. Pollack likes to talk about the filmmaking process and how the filmed material makes it to a final film through the editing, and he provides us with a lot of insightful and interesting information.

He also talks a lot about the actors and actresses, what their process and involvement was and how they handle their own craft. He certainly has a lot of praise for all the actors, particularly both Kidman and Penn. It's very interesting to hear Pollack talking about their scenes together and how they worked together.

Alternate Ending and Deleted Scenes:
Far too sweet and Hollywood, and it's brilliant that they managed to get the other ending into the released film. There's nothing much to the deleted scenes, just a few that are of no great importance and you can clearly see how the film works better without them.

The Ultimate Movie Set - The United Nations, A Day in the Life of Real Interpreters:
Both these extras compliment each other to provide a very interesting look into the Interpreters and the UN, something that has not often been seen before. We hear from the actual Interpreters themselves and are shown some of the places where they work. This helps to show you the authenticity of the film, and also to learn a little about the UN.

Sydney Pollack at Work:
This provides another good look at how Pollack works and what it is to be a director. He talks about directing and acting, and the whole movie making process. It's very insightful and interesting. He really does show that he has a real awareness of casting actors, filming and production, and the final editing. There's an excellent moment where he talks about why he uses multiple cameras in dialogue scenes. He also talks of his awareness of the studio and press, which helps to provide a stronger understanding of the man over and above seeing the working side.

Pan and Scan:
Here Pollack becomes my hero and tells you exactly why the dreaded pan and scan is bad, he explains why the black bars at the top and bottom of the screen are good, and why it's not about them, it's about the huge amount of film footage on the sides of the screen you lose if you go 4:3.


This is a great DVD offering, giving Pollack the time and space to talk about his career, how he makes movies, and what is involved. He delves into acting as well as directing, and even gives us a warning as to why 4:3 is so bad. The extras are so relevant and interesting on this disc.

The movie itself is a strong thriller that I really did enjoy. There are some weak moments and some points that could have been stronger to create the tension and deliver the ending better, but overall it's a very good film. Two superb performances from Penn and Kidman top the film off, and if you only need one reason to watch it, then these two are the reason.

IMDB Film details



I saw this movie when it was released in theatres in April '05 and was thoroughly surprised. Two great performances from Kidman and Penn, along with it just being a very good thriller made this very enjoyable. I must watch it again soon.

I completely agree with your review Richard. I waited till it was on cable to watch the movie and was thoroughly surprised by how much I enjoyed the film. I can't quite understand where the critics were coming from when this movie was first released.

Too generous the 4 stars in my opinion. It bored me actually, I mean I was so looking forward to it not just because of the two actors but because I love Sydney Pollack's works. And when I saw it, I was like, that was it?

Agree with the 4 star review, Richard - I rented this one a while back and really liked it, wonderful performances from both Penn and Kidman and another of my favourite actresses, Catherine Keener who I would have liked to have seen more of. Couldn't understand why it got slated the way it did either.



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