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Film: The Interpreter

The Interpreter is a movie from 2005 directed by the late Sydney Pollack, staring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn. A United Nations Interpreter, Silvia Broome (Kidman) returned late one evening to her work station and overhears a plot to assassinate the leader of her home country. Fearing for her safety a Secret Service Agent in Foreign Dignitary Protection (Penn) is assigned to investigate and keep an eye on her. The movie was the first ever movie to be filmed inside the United Nations including the chambers of the U.N. Security Council. Overall the film revived positive reviews and performed modestly well at the Box Office.


This film features examples of:

  • Artistic License: The fictional country of Matobo.
  • Batman Gambit: Silvia's plan to assassinate Zuwanie is one that's hinging on 1) Him coming to the UN to begin with and 2) going into the safe room where she is waiting.
    • Furthermore is the implication that she's been working at the UN for years hoping that this would happen.
  • Black and Grey Morality: Zuwanie is by all accounts a despicable human being, but Silvia has also been planning to kill him.
  • Bulungi: Matobo again. It's a recognizable Expy of Zimbabwe (which is why the actual African country of Zimbabwe has banned the movie).
  • California Doubling: As mentioned above this movie was actually filmed inside the U.N. but originally was set to be filmed in Toronto, but due to the high cost of replicating the U.N. General Assembly Room for the set, the producers renewed in trying to get the U.N.
  • Chekhov's Gun: It's an actual gun in this case. Dot comments on how frequently Zuwanie is photographed holding a gun. FBI Agent King says he'll bring it to the U.N. with him because world leaders don't have to go through metal detectors. During his U.N. visit, Silvia grabs the gun from him and threatens him with it.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Silvia is so familiar with the layout of U.N. Headquarters that one of her co-workers jokingly asks if she designed the building. This is how she is able to sneak into the Safe Room and confront Zuwanie near the end.
  • Child Soldiers: In one of the movie's earliest scenes, Simon and Xola are gunned down by two young boys carrying assault rifles. The boys appear to be completely desensitized to violence; there's almost no expression on their faces during the murder.
  • Con Lang: Ku, the official language of Matobo.
  • The Dead Have Names: Simon's journal has a disturbingly Long List of people who died violently under Zuwanie's government. He lists their names and how they died and he includes photographs of a few of them. His project is complicated by the Matoban people who avert this trope; naming the dead is against their cultural beliefs.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Both Silvia and Tobin, mostly at each other. Also, Dot, a lot.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Silvia is set up as an innocent person dragged into this plot, when in reality, she's been planning to assassinate Zuwanie for years and it's revealed that Tobin is the true hero.
  • Dying Town: The African village that Simon, Xola and Phillipe drive through at the beginning. The town is largely deserted because most of the residents have been killed by Zuwanie's forces or have run away. Most of the buildings are covered in dust and obviously falling apart.
  • Evil All Along: Silvia.
  • Faux Fluency: The language Kidman's character speaks is fictional.
  • Fictional Country: Matobo
  • Job Title
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: Zuwanie was initially hailed as a hero for his role in overthrowing an extremely corrupt government. Now he's internationally despised for his regime's many human rights abuses. FBI Agent King comments on many rulers this has happened to: "They all begin as liberators and 20 minutes later they're as corrupt as the tyrants they've overthrown." It's however a subversion for Silvia. She's been planning to assassinate Zuwanie for years.
  • The Reveal: Silvia is attempting to assassinate Zuwanie.
    • The initial assassins were an attempt by Zuwanie to deter his opponents from indicting him.
  • Villain Protagonist: Silvia.
  • What Could Have Been: Several Real Life diplomats who were at the UN during the filming expressed interest in playing themselves, but the UN forbade it.
  • You Have to Believe Me: Averted. Sylvia clearly and concisely explains what she overheard, and her tip is dealt with competently and professionally.
Imagine Me & YouFilms of 2005 - 2009 The Island

alternative title(s): The Interpreter
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