Indeed, that’s where works main character Silvia Broome, a charming young interpreter living in New York after fleeing as a teenager from Matobo, a struggling province in Zimbabwe.
In America, the girl seems to have finally found the peace she has been searching for all her life until one evening, she unexpectedly stumbles into the General Assembly after hours and overhears a conversation in Ku, a language spoken only in her home country.
She cannot see who the people are talking, yet she quickly realizes that it is a plot to assassinate the controversial Matobian leader, Edmond Zuwanie.
In those very days, the dictator is about to arrive in the U.S. to address the U.N., which wants to convict him of war crimes because of his brutal repression against rebels in his country.
Because of the gravity of her revelations, the FBI assigns Agent Tobin Keller to protect Silvia, trying to investigate who the potential assassins might be.
Keller is a solid skeptical man whose recent personal grief leads him to doubt anyone and anything, so he instinctively keeps the beautiful interpreter on the suspect list as well.
Tensions rise between them as Silvia can’t decide between her desire to prevent a murder and the love for her homeland, grasping in the relentless grip of Zuwanie’s soldiers.
Despite initial distrust, Keller begins to understand the complexity of her predicament and also suspects that she, too, may be a potential victim, with someone wanting to shut her up before it is too late.
War and love in New York City
Sydney Pollack directs a chorus of distressed souls in a well-designed construction of time and pacing for a political thriller firmly attached to a robust character development framework.
Each figure presents a carefully delineated profile, forming a narrative web that engages and traps the viewer in a labyrinth of suspense.
At the same time, the movie conveys a simple and powerful message delivering a battle cry that nevertheless echoes in a vacuum, calling for the need to shine a light on African exterminations.
These horrors, often pushed to the sidelines of media coverage, receive an emotional plea to not become fading into oblivion.
A constant conflict is imbued in the plot, a strain that transcends distances and penetrates the relationships between these characters.
At the center of the stage, the figure of the protagonist emerges in all her inner conflict. It is as if she is poised on a tightrope, torn between the impulse to bring peace to the world and the torment of an irrepressible desire for revenge.
No less critical is her palpable anxiety for her brother, still living under the shadows of an oppressive regime.
With great skill, the director handles to tangle together various layers of narrative, embedding in the movie meanings mixed with an entertaining plot making The Interpreter one of the best thrillers of 2005.
Some cannot cope with the supposed coldness of the relationship between the protagonists, which for some is a love story that began and never ended, hampered by the traumas of the characters who cannot open the doors of their hearts wide.
Yet, the mutual attraction between them is undeniable, an undercurrent that never manages to break through to the surface.
So, can’t we still call it romantic love even though the sweet romance never really comes true?
What more does a thriller need?
Although the two leads share the stage equally as minutes on screen, Nicole Kidman‘s magnetic performance stands out, shining with a light of her own and offering an emotional arc of rare intensity.
The stunning Australian actress embodies a character who, although she works as an expert linguist, is shrouded in the silence of her home in a lonely, melancholy life.
Despite the sadness, however, a latent spark resides in her, a fire that burns subtly under the mantle of ashes, and this unexpected warmth gradually rises again as Sean Penn enters the scene.
Even though his role may seem clichéd -the agent with a grim family background who seems a constant in thrillers- comes across as anything but ordinary.
His every dialogue and interaction with Kidman is rich in subtext, and in short, this dynamic is the pinnacle of the best moments in the film, especially in the scenes where they interact by phone, with him watching her from a distance.
Besides being the director Sydney Pollack also plays the role of Jay Pettigrew, Penn’s well-meaning boss, who, along with the likable Catherine Keener, takes the part of a kind of unusual family within the FBI.
A family that comes to terms with the enigmatic presence of the performer, whose reliability remains a constant open question until the end.
Within the realm of negative characters, Earl Cameron, as dictator Edmond Zuwanie, provides a convincing and fascinating portrayal, making a point for his (albeit insane) reasons and justifications for war and violence.
Behind him is the personal army led by the unflappable Jesper Christensen, as the evil Nils Lud, who seems to have an unresolved conflict with the protagonist, although that aspect is never explicitly revealed, further and delightfully fueling the mystery.