The Good

The Bad

This is one of those movies that suffers from it’s wish to humanize every character to the point where there are no good guys, no bad guys, just people trying to get on in this ugly world. And while sometimes this can work, mostly in documentary films where it is established we are looking at real life, The Interpreter suffers because of this. I also think it suffers from Sydney Pollack not going into production with a solid enough screenplay. While people might cite John Cassavetes as someone who did just that (he’s one of my idols so I should applaud this approach, right?), it isn’t something I feel I can get behind with The Interpreter because the subject matter is so different. Also, Pollack, Penn and Kidman didn’t set out to make a film that examines emotions, they were making a political thriller that of course, cannot show Kidman in a bad light, so in the end she’s got to “win the day.”

I am sorry to be so negative about this film, but I really feel that artists like Sydney Pollack and Sean Penn (yes, I think they are artists regardless of how I feel about their politics), should challenge themselves more. I don’t mean make a mess of a screenplay with 3 writers, I mean take a stand. Don’t try to present every side, don’t look for every conceivable option, but find your story and stick with it. The Interpreter had every opportunity to really lay some things on the line, as a result it is a confused and confusing story about people that seem a tad road weary. No doubt a sign of how things were on The Interpreter set.


Alternate Ending; Deleted Scenes; Sydney Pollack at Work and Interpreting Pan & Scan vs. Widescreen

I don’t want to give too much away about the alternative ending, but I am glad that they went with the ending they did for the final film. Even though I didn’t like it all that much, the ending shown here in the supplemental materials is almost like a liberal’s fantasy. There are only a few deleted scenes shown here, and none of them really illuminate more about the story, or “solve” any of the basic problems I had with the movie. “Sydney Pollack at Work” was very interesting because I find him interesting. The way he is able to talk about movies and break down the language of cinema is something I could listen to all day. In the “Interpreting Pan & Scan vs. Widescreen” segment, he talks about why he returned to his use of Widescreen after all these years. Personally, for movies, I prefer Widescreen over Pan & Scan, however, with television I prefer the “boxed” look.

Commentary with Sydney Pollack; The Ultimate Movie Set and A Day in the Life of Real Interpreters

I love Sidney Pollack, as I mentioned above, but I had never heard him talk on a Director’s Commentary before. This was painful. It was like watching grass grow. Come on Sidney, tell us stories, relate the shoot to some of the other movies you’ve made, talk about Kubrick or something! This was just dreadful. “The Ultimate Movie Set” looks at the unprecedented access that The Interpreter was given when they were allowed to shoot inside the UN. I cannot in my wildest dreams imagine how hard it was, even after gaining the access, to bring an entire film crew inside and shoot this movie. They probably could have made a whole 2 hour film about shooting at this location. “A Day in the Life of Real Interpreters” looks at what the people who listen and interpret really have to go through. I can only imagine what it must be like interpreting for someone you politically oppose. Also, the stress level involved with a job like this...


Anamorphic Widescreen - 2.35:1. This movie has the look and feel of a Sydney Pollack film. Both he and Sidney Lumet photograph New York in such a way that I feel they perfectly capture the hustle and bustle, business acumen as it mixes with the seedier, underbelly that the city has to offer. The Interpreter feels important. It looks big and it deals with very relevant issues, using New York City as a veritable microcosm for the entire world. This film captures the city and this, in my opinion, is where The Interpreter truly succeeds. This film has a hard look and seems almost devoid of colors. It is this lifelessness that really exudes the feelings of our broken characters, however even this well crafted milieu cannot really help this film.


Dolby Digital 5.1 - English, Spanish and French. Subtitled in Spanish and French. This movie sounds real. The technical side of The Interpreter really isn’t the issue here. I didn’t have a problem hearing what anyone was saying. New York sounded like New York and the offices sounded like real offices. My problem with this movie was more in the subject matter department. I loved the pacing and the fluid feel that both the images and the sound had mixed together. This movie even recalled certain aspects of Coppola’s The Conversation and De Palma’s Blow Out in the way that audio was used. While nothing too amazing was done with it, the sound for this movie more than holds it’s own with the rest of the images.


The front cover has Sean Penn running to save somebody’s life it seems. Kidman looks like she’s either been caught doing something or someone is coming after her. A bus and a car are blowing up and the city of New York is the backdrop for all of these images. The back features some pictures from the movie, a description of what the film is about, a Bonus Features listing, a cast list and some technical specs. I actually kind of like this cover as I feel it gives off more suspense than The Interpreter itself.

Final Word

So much about this film felt right. The mood, the tone... there was a lot going on on the screen that seemed to speak of Pollack’s earlier movies. Maybe I was hanging my hat too much on that and when the film became something else, I just wasn’t able to adjust as a viewer. I thought Penn and Kidman were really good together, even though there was a lot about their relationship on screen that seemed unreal. Maybe the biggest problem with this film is that it wasn’t interesting enough? It focused so much on the technical and political aspects of the story, that I think The Interpreter ended up losing itself.

I will always go and see Sydney Pollack’s films. He is someone who is very good as an actor, and this translates well behind the camera. I just wish The Interpreter would have taken more of a stand, not humanized everyone as much and really given me characters to “root” for.

The Interpreter was released April 8, 2005.