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Movie of the Day: The Interpreter (2005)

“Kapéla, we're on opposite sides of the river.”
Very interesting idea, captivating performances, professional direction, gripping character revelations, exceptionally interesting dynamics between the main characters, truly moving moments that never go cheap, essential ideas woven into the dialogue...
Why, then, did I feel somewhat cheated?
Let's not dwell on the fact that, for me, such dramatic historical truths ('every dictator begins as a savior') are betrayed when treated upon the thriller recipe. I could live with that, if it means that they reach a larger audience this way. Let's accept that there would be such a country where the main adviser of a black president is white, when at some point colour became politics. Let's just say that these are the paradoxes of dictatorship, although they could have been described much more interestingly and convincingly than they were.
The main source of disappointment for me was the script. I felt it went past tight, past thrilling, past complicated and it settled somewhere between too intelligent for its own good and completely flat.
First, the final twists were clear from the very beginning. The moment when Nils Lud appeared on the screen, it was clear he was the chief bad guy. His motivation was conspicuously stated by Kuman-Kuman in a very early scene: a near-assassination would launder all the president's sins. Nothing surprising or at least interesting here. The other twist was just as predictable, at least for this viewer. I cannot describe exactly what pointed me to expect it, but I was sure since very early on that Silvia would try to kill the president herself, on the spur of the moment. She was talking of diplomacy just a little too emphatically, perhaps. In any case, I could only yawn during what was supposed to be the climax scene where Sean Penn's character tries to convince Silvia to put the gun down. It was a pity.
Perhaps to make up for such predictable developments, there were a lot of confusing details thrown in with the sole purpose to sidetrack the viewer from the correct expectations, except there were so many and so confusing that I can only see them as plot holes. I can just about swallow that Silvia was in contact with the friend with whom she has no emotional involvement, but never with her brother and former lover. These things happen. The "you" in "I'm worried about you" can be understood as plural. Why, however, would Phillipe say that he arranged the seeing of the dead bodies during which Simon and the former lover where killed, when we have seen that the former lover had told Phillipe "No, he said just the two of us"? No real consistency here, as far as I understand, except trying to create confusion for later cheap 'thrilling' purposes.
Then there is the issue of the complot itself. I can only understand - please somebody correct me if I am wrong - that Sylvia overheard Jamal and Gamba. Then Gamba killed Jamal because he wanted to scare Silvia, but went himself to kill her days later, when it was almost certain that the flat was under surveillance - why? Why didn't he just kill her first thing, when they found out whom she was? Because he 'knew' she would be on the same bus as Kuman-Kuman? And why didn't he off Kuman-Kuman earlier on, if he was working for the president and it was so easy to do it, why now when he would have been a good suspect for the mock assassination? Of course, because now we are watching, but still, does it make any sense to anybody? To me it doesn't. I can only assume that Jamal knew about the plot because he had to smuggle in some pieces of the gun, but why did he speak with Gamba there, inside the UN, why was Gamba there at all? Why would a pawn like Jamal know the reason why he had to smuggle the gun in? Why didn't Marcus do it himself? Why did Gamba need to speak to Marcus at all? And finally, where did Marcus learn the language he was supposed to be translating, because nobody in that country looks like he does? Of course, we can imagine answers to all these questions, but I would have preferred all this to be addressed in the movie instead.
One more thing I didn't like was the drowning of the assassin thing. In itself it was a beautiful enough metaphor, but the way Senn Pean's character changed his tackle from the first scene when it was mentioned to the 'put the gun down' scene was - well - a bit risible, wasn't it?
There were things I liked in the plot, however. To end the examples on a positive note, I must say that it was, for me, extraordinarily beautiful how 'a human voice, even a whisper' is louder than, and can be recognised among, the racket of guns and screams. If only for that part, whether a quote or written specifically for the film, Interpreter was a good movie.Ultimately, all my critics only come to show how difficult it is to write a good thriller. And how sometimes trying to write both a political thriller and a character-driven movie can fail on both accounts…7/10


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