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The Interpreter
Directed by Sydney Pollack
128 minutes (PG-13 rating)

Commentary by Kevin Miller

The Interpreter is that rare film that is not afraid to tackle adult topics in an adult manner. The fact that it does so within the confines of a highly commercial political-thriller formula makes its achievement even more amazing and delightful.

On the surface, the film is about a United Nations interpreter, Silvia Broome, who overhears a plot to kill an African dictator. Her accidental eavesdropping does not go unnoticed, and soon her life is threatened as well.

Enter Tobin Keller, the grief-stricken secret service agent assigned to protect her. (His estranged wife was just killed in a car accident.) As it turns out, Broome is bound up with grief as well, having lost most of her family to a terrorist bomb years earlier. So while the two don't exactly hit it off at first, their sorrow soon creates a silent bond.

Grief isn't the only thing these characters share in common.

Broome and Keller also nurse a deep, unspoken desire for revenge. While Keller buries his anger in his work, Broome smothers hers with talk about how "Vengeance is a lazy form of grief." Retribution may bring about temporary satisfaction, but in the end, it only leads to more suffering.

Noble words, but as Broome soon learns, such platitudes are easier spoken than lived out. When the opportunity for revenge presents itself, she is torn between her ideals and her desire to settle the score. This forces Keller to make his own difficult choice between finding vicarious satisfaction through Broome's actions or helping them both come to terms with their grief once and for all.

Considering the fact that we now live in a world where terrorists fly airliners into skyscrapers, tough-talking politicians respond by promising to hunt down and kill those same terrorists, and many Christians bless the efforts of such politicians, the story could not be more appropriate for our times. As this film makes clear, the reality of violence cannot be avoided. But that does not mean we must allow it to dictate our actions or succumb to the temptation of its efficiency by responding in kind. To put a new twist on G. K. Chesterton's classic remark about Christianity, "Peaceful solutions to violence have not been tried and found wanting, they have been found difficult and not tried." Or, to paraphrase Sylvia Broome, "Non-violent solutions may take longer, but the outcome is certainly worth the wait."

Part message movie, part big-budget thriller, The Interpreter is also an excellent example of how even a highly commercial film can impact hearts and minds for good, even if all you are looking for is a good night's entertainment.

Copyright @ 2005 Kevin Miller.


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