The Interpreter (2005)
Stop me if you've heard this one.
The male law enforcement officer is on a stake-out.
His job is to watch a potential murder target, an attractive female
with whom he has already made an inchoate connection. He is in the
apartment building across the street from hers, with a vantage that
allows him to look inside two of her windows. He has the binoculars
on her as he sees her in her bedroom, preparing to take a shower.
Hubba hubba! Suddenly, his instinct tells him to move his eyes to
the other window, where he sees the bad guy breaking into her living
room through the apartment door, carrying a personal armory that
would impress General Patton. The cop can see that the victim has no
idea she is in trouble. Lacking another way to communicate with her,
our hero immediately runs down the stairs in his building, across
the street, up the stairs in her building ... the film cuts from the
intended victim to the murderer to the cop.
Will the cavalry arrive in time ... ??
Oh, wait, you have seen that before? Well, apparently
the filmmakers are aware of that because they changed the outcome. Our hero
arrives too late. Mr. Baddie goes into the bathroom, hears the
shower running, and fires a few rounds into the shower curtain. Then
he has to turn his attention to the sound of the cop entering the
You're thinking, "What is wrong with that? It is very
cool and completely realistic that the cop didn't arrive in time.
That is a great way to keep a genre film from getting mired in the
Yeah, except for one thing. That ain't how it worked
Remember, the reason our hero went dashing to the
rescue is that he could see the victim acting oblivious to the
threat. But in the next five seconds, in the short time it took for
the bad guy to go from the living room to the bedroom, our victim
sensed some trouble, and ran out the bedroom window and down the
fire escape, leaving the water running in an empty shower.
We do not know this immediately. Cop and baddie have
the usual gunfight in which they each discharge about ten thousand
rounds in a city apartment. Bad guy hits the floor. Good guy runs to
the shower, sees the holes in the curtain, thinks the woman must be
dead, pulls the shower curtain back ... nothing but water. He then
runs to the window, and figures out what she must have done.
It is a good scene. It contains both tension and mystery. It was one
of several similarly well managed scenes which brought on the
There's really only one thing wrong with it. It
couldn't actually happen. How could the victim suddenly sense her
predicament and immediately run for the fire escape? And how was she
lucky enough to have turned the water on before she fled, even
though she was still fully dressed? Even if all that were possible,
how could she get out of that window fast enough to avoid being seen
by Mr. Baddie, who would be looking right at that window as he moved
from the living room to the bedroom?
My jaw just dropped as I watched that completely
implausible scene unfold. WTF??
You can probably find dozens of similar logical lapses if you watch
this film too analytically. A secret service agent figures out
that an assassin will try to shoot a speaker at the podium of the
U.N. General Assembly. He immediately starts lecturing the other
agents about how hard it is to find people who will volunteer for
suicide missions, and that suicidal terrorists can't be patterned -
they could be anyone. I don't know if that is true or not, but have
you spotted the complete lapse in logic? Why does the killer have to
be on a suicide mission? The agent has assumed that a guy smart
enough to get into the U.N. General Assembly with a high powered
rifle is not smart enough to have an escape plan. Hey, dude -
compared to smuggling a weapon in there, getting away is the easy
part! In the confusion and bedlam, he might even be able to walk out
of the building with the frightened tourists.
There was no good reason to conclude that someone
brilliant enough to pull off the assassination could not have an
escape plan. Even if that seemed less likely to them than a suicide
mission, they had no reason to rule out that possibility out. So how
could our hero know that they were looking for a man on a suicide
mission? Easy! He knew he was in a movie, so he read ahead in the
script, and it said so right there! Bingo!
Oh, yeah, and then there is our Secret Service agent.
He's pretty much like any other secret service agent you've seen on
he always wears a dark suit
he makes sarcastic remarks to witnesses
he has really long, unkempt Spicoli hair.
I have to admit that I am not aware of the specific
grooming requirements for the United States Secret Service, but I'm
just going to take a guess that sarcasm and long, wild Spicoli hair
are probably not part of the program. (See the Movie House for a
Oh, well, enough nitpicking. I'm going to end up
saying that this film is not so bad, so all of my quibbling and
whining has simply been to offer you some perspective on the
reviews that have called this a smartly written adult thriller. It
is nothing of the kind. It is a standard TV police procedural
similar to hundreds of films you've seen before, except it has these
- there at least three excellent, well orchestrated nail-biting
scenes in which the protagonist races against time and/or the
- the two leads are two of the very best actors
in the English-speaking world (Kidman, Penn), and it is unusual to
see performers of that caliber in a genre film.
- the film has to pad the procedural out to two
hours and both lead actors are especially effective at portraying
grief, so the script gives them both backgrounds which layer in some drama
with the police procedural. Kidman may now be the all-time cinema
grief queen, her only serious competitors being Susan Hayward and
Penn himself. I don't mean to imply that the interpreter's (Kidman's) unfortunate personal
history is superfluous bullshit. To the contrary, it is absolutely essential to the story. In fact, without it
there is only half of a movie. Given that, the casting of Kidman
was a real coup!
- the script does not muck up the story with a
silly romance between the cop and the interpreter.
- the film is the first in the past five decades
to be allowed to film inside the U.N. building. To the best of my
knowledge, the only previous film to incorporate genuine U.N.
interiors was Maxwell Shane's 1953 cold war thriller
The cop's (Penn's) grief, by the way, is just
something that was tacked on for added character depth. It seems
that his wife left him for the zillionth time, but she was just
about to return when she got in a fatal car crash, and now ...
the cop keeps calling his own home phone, just to hear her voice on
the answering machine, and so he can have a good cry on camera.
Unlike the back-story for the interpreter, this could have been
retained or discarded without affecting the plot.
In addition to some of the negatives I noted above, it should be
noted that the conversations between Kidman and Penn are irritating,
boring and pretentious. At one point Kidman explains that she could
not be in on the assassination plot, even though she is from the
same country and despises the leader being targeted. Why not? After
all, the leader is responsible for the murders of all of her family,
isn't he? Because "vengeance is just a lazy form of grief," and
she's not lazy. Oh, well, that's OK then. Sorry for asking. She then
goes on to explain her point with some allegorical tale which is
taken from the native people of her home country, and involves foxes
and grapes and turtles and rabbits and victims and swimming
aardvarks and prodigal sons. Frankly, I was getting tired of her
answering every question with a parable, riddle, or fable. In
addition to studying the folk legends of her country, she seems to
have memorized everything ever said by Aesop, Confucius, and Jesus.
Although it was billed as a "political thriller", The
doesn't really have any strong political position more controversial
than "we should talk to each other instead of shooting" and
"genocide is a bad thing." In that latter case it is not really
clear that the script writer even understands what genocide is. The
evil "genocidal" dictator in the film is not really genocidal at
all. He does not choose to kill people based on their tribal
membership or skin color. He simply kills everyone indiscriminately
if they are in the way of his attainment of absolute power,
especially those who disagree
with him. Is he a mass murderer? Sure. Is he Evil? Goes
without saying. Is he genocidal? Eh... not so much.
three major political thrillers that came out right about at the
time of Nixon's resignation: The Conversation 1974, The Parallax
View 1974, Three Days of the Condor 1975. In that highly polarized
time, it was all the rage for liberals to express their opinions in
the guise of thrillers. (It's like a parable. Kidman's character
would love it!) The director of Three Days of the Condor was Sydney
Pollack, who is also the director of The Interpreter, so this is
presumably Pollack's take on a revival or update of the 70s-style
political conspiracy thriller. Big Syd did OK, but The Interpreter
is no masterpiece, and is not especially memorable, despite all the
star power. It is just an above average film with a modern take on
that long neglected sub-genre. No more or less.
There are two strippers. One is topless, one
not. I don't know which one was topless. The two women are Bridget
Doerksen and Ana Maria Lupo. The topless one was blond, so the one with the
Germanic name (Doerksen) might be a good guess, but who knows
Sigh. Even the best science fiction stories are often
thinly-disguised morality plays about the logical extension of what
we know about such topics as overpopulation, pollution, space
travel, and the underside of human nature.
It usually turns out to be bullshit, of course. When the future
actually arrives, it is easy to see that the future world they
imagined was not about the future but about their own present. A
good percentage of time they predicted everything exactly the
opposite of what really happened. Science fiction writers of the
past, for example, once imagined a future world filled with every
more gigantic, noisy, and polluting machines. The real development
of machines made them ever tinier, quieter, and more efficient.
The tendency of futurologists to be consistently incorrect is
explained by a sociological (and mathematical) phenomenon called
regression, which is to say that once anything gets too far from
where most people want it, it gets pulled back by a centrist
tendency. Take Central Manhattan, for example. If you wrote a
science-fiction story in 1980 after studying the development of
Times Square from 1955-1980, how would you imagine Times Square to
look in 2005? The answer is basically that you could not possibly
have been more wrong. The fact that the area got ever more sleazy
and dangerous in that first 25 year period was not a trend that
could be extrapolated into the future. Eventually, the area got too
far from what average people consider acceptable, and various social
forces forced it to regress toward the mean, toward "normality." In
fact, it is pretty much the same now as it was in 1955, except with
the technology of 2005. It's all commercial and touristy and
white-bread, and there are times when you almost wish the old porn
theaters, street hustlers, and rip-off joints would return. Almost.
Daybreak has that kind of problem. It was written in the early days
of the AIDS scare, and it envisions our time to be sharply polarized
into the plague-free ruling classes and the diseased, who are
forcibly removed from society and quarantined. Rebels fight against
the marginalization of the victims. Of course, none of that
happened. Reality intervened, and the United States did not become
more sharply divided regarding AIDS. Medicine did its share,
tolerance did its share, education did its share, prominent
heterosexuals like Magic Johnson started to turn up HIV+, and we
gradually became better at both treating it and dealing with its
stigma. HIV+ people now walk among us, live long lives after they
are diagnosed, and are not universally turned into social pariahs.
This film got pretty much everything wrong.
In many cases, we forgive sci-fi films their wrong headedness if
they give our imagination some exercise. I suppose the future may be
nothing like the way it is pictured in Blade Runner, yet that film
still uses art and action and invention and a touch of poetry to
bring us into its alternate world. Daybreak, in contrast, has
nothing to offer in the realm of imagination. It presents a world
that looks and sounds exactly like the one we live in, or lived in
way back in 1993. People wear the same 1993 clothes, and drive the
same 1993 cars, and live in 1993 apartments, and use 1993
appliances. The only difference between Daybreak's world and the
real world is that AIDS is far more virulent.
So what does the film have to offer? Not much. Underneath its
half-hearted sci-fi veneer, it's a routine kind of love story
between the rebel leader and a "healthy" girl who [previously had
been handing around with the modern equivalent of the Hitler Youth.
It's sort of like West Side Story with a bad cough. Except it's the
It does feature Cuba Gooding pre-stardom, and several nice topless
scenes from Moira Kelly, who was lookin' mighty good in 1993!
Moira Kelly (1,
Some chick with a really great ass.
The Coca Cola Bottles of the World Website
David and Victoria Beckham failed in a last-minute legal attempt
to stop the News of the World printing allegations by their
former nanny, eventually published across seven pages
in the paper's Sunday edition.
FilmJerk's Early Report for April 24.
- The mysterious caption is
"Norwegian Initiation" - not sure what they are
getting initiated into, but it's a great rite of passage.
Alessia Merz topless paparazzi pics
The trailer for the French crime thriller A Tout De Suite
- "Heroine Lili hangs up the phone after hearing her lover
say 'We're coming right now,' she knows in her heart of hearts
what she hadn't faced up to before: that this man she loves,
this 'prince' from nowhere, is a hoodlum. He has just robbed a
bank and a man got killed. It's the mid-1970s. Lili is
nineteen years old. Right now, as if in a waking dream, she
falls headlong from the tight, narrow space of her father's
uptown apartment, where she provides refuge for her lover,
into a weaving world of escape - Spain, Morocco, Greece - and
from being an almost well-behaved girl into the life she's
BUSH ADMITS HE NO LONGER UNDERSTANDS HIS SOCIAL SECURITY
PROPOSAL ... Orders Worldwide Manhunt to Find Someone
The Interpreter takes the weekend box office with $22 million.
- That performance is stronger than it sounds, because it
opened against three other new movies in an unusually active
week. New movies accounted for $40 million
- As mentioned in an earlier link, Kung Fu Hustle managed
only third among the new releases $7 million), and only fifth
overall, despite great reviews and great results in the test
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Last week's quotables from Conan's monologue. Some
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planning to make a movie about the courtship of Prince Charles
and Camilla Parker Bowles. The movie is going to star Sir Ian
McKlellan and Wilford Brimley"
- "Later this month, the dress Judy Garland wore in 'The
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will be bought by an anonymous bidder who wishes to remain in
Microsoft finally awakens and comes close to Beta on MSIE 7
Other Crap archives. May also include newer material than the
since it's sorta in real time.
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