DIRECTED BY: SYDNEY POLLACK/2005
KINO LORBER STREET DATE: November 13, 2018
Director Sydney Pollack (Tootsie, The Firm) sits at the helm of a political thriller called The Interpreter starring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn. It is an adapted story from Martin Stellman and Brian Ward based on the novel of the same name, by Suzanne Glass. The screenplay is by Charles Randolph (The Big Short), Scott Frank (Out of Sight), and Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List). Kino Lorber’s Special Edition Blu-Ray for The Interpreter is packed with extras, and is one of the best releases in their catalog in terms of value added, as I’ll detail further in the review.
At the United Nation’s headquarters in New York, language translator Silvia Broome (Kidman) overhears a hidden individual on a live mic discussing a planned assassination attempt on the controversial leader of a small African nation who is planning an upcoming trip to the United States to speak to the U.N. General Assembly. While the figures she heard are hidden, her interpretation box was illuminated meaning the potential assassins know who she is, putting her directly in the cross-hairs of this international plot.
Enter Secret Service agents Tobin Keller (Penn) and Dot Woods (Catherine Keener-Get Out, 40 Year Old Virgin). At first Silvia believes that he is there to protect her. She ultimately learns the truth that she is in fact a suspect. Having been raised in this fictionalized country in Africa, and having had a hidden past that would seem to put her at odds with the controversial leader, Kidman finds herself caught in the middle of an international conspiracy that could cost her her life.
As I spoke about earlier, the Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber is loaded with extras. There is an audio commentary track from director Sydney Pollack that gives some background on the story, the setting, and how he went about trying to tell it. There are deleted scenes, as well as an alternate ending to the film. One of the most interesting features on this Special Edition is called “Sydney Pollack at Work: From Concept to Cutting Room“. Here, Pollack walks us through certain scenes of the film and how he approached the editing process so as to tell the story in the most direct way and natural way, including using the frame to give clues to the mystery of the story without tipping off the audience who is behind it all before the climax of the film. This is also broadened on the feature “Interpreting Pan & Scan vs. Widescreen” where Pollack shows his preferences for Widescreen in giving the audience a more immersive experience.
In the feature “The Ultimate Movie Set: The United Nations“, we are given a fantastic behind-the-scenes of the actual U.N. Headquarters where Pollack was able to obtain approval to film. This is an unprecedented move by the world body as they try to remain as politically neutral as possible given their mission. Any film and story can be fraught with political land mines for an organization like the U.N., so it is wonderful to see the cooperation that went in to granting the cast and crew permission to use the entire building as one big set, so long as they did not interrupt the daily work that goes on at the U.N. To see the General Assembly Room in Widescreen, knowing it is the real place as you watch the film is quite impressive. Even rooms meant for smaller bodies like the Security Council are used.
Finally, the Blu-Ray feature “A Day in the Life of Real Interpreters” gives a wonderful set-up for the character of Silvia Broome’s, and how Kidman’s portrayal matched up against the complicated responsibilities real of U.N. Interpreters. While Kidman is speaking an invented language in the film, this language has roots in several actual languages. Through the interviews with real interpreters we better understand the difficulty of teaching an actor how to both speak, interpret, and reply in scenes. This difficulty is due to the responsibility that interpreters have to correctly communicate every word, sentence, phrase, and non-verbal nuance of the speaker they are interpreting, in one language to the listening party. While they are speaking in this 2nd language to the listening party, they continue to listen to the speaker in a completely different language. Kidman learned to completely speak this invented language vs. learning her lines phonetically, and seeing the real interpreter’s of the U.N. speak about their job and the intricacies involved only adds credibility to Kidman’s performance.
The Special Edition Blu-ray for The Interpreter is presented in either 5.1 Surround and 2.0 Lossless Audio, and there is also a theatrical trailer.