‘The Interpreter’ is, at its heart, a simple movie with a simple message: genocide sucks.
Well, that might be a slight oversimplification, but it is a sentiment that is very much at the heart of the film. It is paired with the equally altruistic but true notion that forgiveness is preferable to vengeance. These ideas are pretty universal, and I doubt that anyone reading this would take exception with them, so the question is this: Why does a movie with such a widely acceptable central conceit try so hard to be inoffensive?
When Nicole Kidman as the titular interpreter, Silvia Broome, overhears a veiled, mysterious, whispered threat coming from the floor of the United Nations, she doesn’t know what to do. It isn’t until the next day that she realizes that the whisper she heard might be a death threat against Matoban leader Edmond Zuwanie. She is interrogated by Secret Service agent Tobin Keller (the disembodied growl once known as Sean Penn), who promptly informs her that the U.S. government isn’t interested in her or her safety; it’s interested in stopping an assassination. Of course, Penn and Kidman have their names above the title, so we all know that they are going to be together for most of the film. It comes as little surprise when Keller sticks to Broome, investigating her as he protects her and trying to stop the potential assassination.
The plot is much more labyrinthine than that, to be sure, but to give much more away here would be a disservice. Suffice it to say that though Zuwanie is a bad, bad man, responsible for the deaths of thousands under the guise of fighting terrorism, Broome has a shady past, too. In fact, just about every major player in the film seems to have a certain amount of cloudiness in their past. Except Dot Woods (Catherine Keener)