The Interpreter


Generally favorable reviews - based on 41 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 25 out of 41
  2. Negative: 0 out of 41

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Critic Reviews

  1. Very much a '70s-style paranoid thriller, with a mood, tone and cascade of plot twists that are highly reminiscent of his 1975 classic, "Three Days of the Condor."
  2. Thrillers don't get much smarter than The Interpreter.
  3. As beautifully designed, swift and sleek as a classic sports car, throbbing with emotion and intelligence, it's a neat suspense film that's also dramatically and sociologically potent, with two supremely talented stars, Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn, delivering beyond the emotional call of duty.
  4. An elegant adventure of a different kind.
  5. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Coolly absorbing without being pulse-quickening.
  6. 75
    The Interpreter bristles with the smart, steadily engrossing tension that marked such 1970s goodies as "All the President's Men," "The Parallax View" and Pollack's own "Three Days of the Condor."
  7. Reviewed by: Peter Debruge
    Slick, well-acted, and smarter than it has to be.
  8. A swiftly told, smartly acted yarn, and it even has an idea or two on its mind.
  9. 75
    Watching these coolly precise, methodical actors spar with each other at the top of their game is half the show.
  10. An intelligent, old-fashioned nail-biter.
  11. 75
    A cut above the average politically-based thriller.
  12. 75
    What I admire most about the film is the way it enters the terms of this world -- of international politics, security procedures, shifting motives -- and observes the details of all-night stakeouts, shop talk, and interlocking motives and strategies.
  13. A suspense thriller of rare intelligence.
  14. 75
    The movie's main strengths are its use of the real United Nations as its prime location and Pollack's ability to stud this movie (as he also did "The Firm") with players who do supporting-character equivalents of star turns.
  15. 70
    The Kidman character is an exotic--and even unlikely--creature, usefully fueling Penn's annoyed but fascinated incredulity.
  16. Yes, this could be a better film, but the good qualities it does have are rare enough to hold our interest on screen and off.
  17. Wall Street Journal
    Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    In the absence of internal logic, external style and emotional intelligence carry the day.
  18. As a straight-ahead thriller, the movie is enjoyable and stirring much of the time.
  19. Penn is terrific in his low-key doggedness.
  20. 70
    Made with an intelligence and craft that's increasingly rare in Hollywood thrillers.
  21. The Interpreter is ultimately fluent in many things, but an out-and-out thriller it is not.
  22. 67
    It's a thriller, and a large one, and it's got a couple of terrific performers in the center.
  23. An old-fashioned suspense drama with an old-fashioned belief at its core: Justice can be done in the world, and the United Nations is the global organization to do it.
  24. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    With major stars, a name director and grown-up subject matter, this middling drama is less a movie to recommend with vigor than to covet on general principles.
  25. 63
    But at the risk of sounding ungrateful, Sydney Pollack's latest film should have been a lot better.
  26. Reviewed by: Ian Nathan
    Solid, mature and finely acted, but intermittently daft.
  27. 60
    The Interpreter is long and tangled, the score is yet another drownout from the thundering James Newton Howard, and the avowed thoughtfulness--about sub-Saharan politics, about the clashing commitments to peace and justice, about the kinship of damaged souls--is at once laudable and vaporous.
  28. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    There's enough narrative for three fine films. But not enough for The Interpreter. The thriller pieces feel assembled rather than organic.
  29. 60
    In the end, nothing about The Interpreter strikes us as very original.
  30. The Interpreter dashes the suspense by talking the audience to death.
  31. 50
    When it comes to the United Nations, though, the movie turns to Jell-O. Whether Pollack was softened up by his meetings with U.N. brass (all the way up to Kofi Annan), or by his own gentlemanly Midwestern liberalism, he is alarmingly circumspect about that august body.
  32. Its talky, sluggish script is so bereft of thrills -- intellectual or otherwise -- that even the film's one masterfully staged sequence... falls flat.
  33. The film feels long, the editing is choppy, and the plot strands are at once convoluted and cliched.
  34. Conventionally described as a political thriller, but The Interpreter is as apolitical as it is unthrilling.
  35. Five people worked on the script; if there was ever any inspiration behind it, there isn't now.
  36. The ideal: It hopes to be a suspenseful political yarn carrying a lofty message of peace and understanding. The reality: It's just a flabby thriller that gets completely lost in translation.
  37. 50
    A righteous but wrongheaded thriller, chokes on its well-meant outrage and leaves a moth-eaten plot and handful of nonsense characters on its way to a dopey finish.
  38. 50
    The Interpreter is so intent on reminding us that it's a QUALITY piece of work that it forgets to give us the very thing we thought we came in for: a story.
  39. Gets more and more complex until it's almost laughable; it has too many beats, too many reverses, and in the end seems unbelievable.
  40. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    Too bloated with its own significance to deliver the requisite thrills.
  41. The director, Sydney Pollack, who appears briefly in the film, has done his experienced best with this Scotch-taped script. But his two stars are insuperable handicaps.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 141 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 44 out of 79
  2. Negative: 15 out of 79
  1. Aug 11, 2012
    'The Interpreter' is just simply not thrilling. That's quite a shame considering the film in question is a "thriller". Regardless, one of the'The Interpreter' is just simply not thrilling. That's quite a shame considering the film in question is a "thriller". Regardless, one of the final movies directed by Sydney Pollack does have its moments, with Catherine Keener a standout in her supporting role. Regrettably the two lead actors aren't as exciting. Sean Penn seems to do a decent job playing a rather dull and lifeless Secret Service agent and Nicole Kidman doesn't exactly light the world on fire with her South African accent. The filming locations are real, which is something at least. Full Review »
  2. Aug 27, 2014
    A fascinating look at how different worlds collide. Nicole Kidman is daring and bold. The Interpreter is reflective of similar films of thisA fascinating look at how different worlds collide. Nicole Kidman is daring and bold. The Interpreter is reflective of similar films of this nature; however, uses fresh concepts surrounding the United Nations and rebellion. Full Review »
  3. PhilK.
    Jul 23, 2006
    I have to say, in defense of Pollock, that I seriously doubt this is the film he inteneded to make. I saw an interview with him in which he I have to say, in defense of Pollock, that I seriously doubt this is the film he inteneded to make. I saw an interview with him in which he said, in effect, that he didn't enjoy making The Interpreter. I believe there was a lot more he wanted to say about the Zumanie character (his evolution into a tyrant, the devastating "structural adjustment" packages imposed by the IMF and World Bank, death squads financed by the US, etc.), but since he was filming at the UN, I'm sure the UN Security Council (i.e., the Bush Administration, NSA, CIA) put considerable pressure on Pollock to revise any scenes or dialogue which would shed some much needed light on how the most brutal leaders of developing countries are placed in power and who their policies always benefit to the detriment of the vast majority of its citizens. Having seen the trailer, and knowing that Pollock was directing Penn and Kidman, I expected a good, solid, political thriller. Like most who are familiar with Pollock's work, I was disappointed in the extreme. However, I should have known that any film made by a major studio dealing with a subject which was politically sensitive, would be a light ball of pink, confectionary fluff wrapped around a hollow core. Full Review »