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THE INTERPRETER

The first film ever shot inside the United Nations building wonít do much to rehabilitate that institutionís image. True, Sydney Pollack acknowledges the organizationís goals of diplomacy, justice, and peace. But those values are just the backdrop for a suspense melodrama that tries to dissipate banality through multiplicity. So we have not one but three renegade leaders of the fictitious African country of Matobo, one in power and two on the lam, each, one presumes, out to kill the others and any innocent civilians who might get in the way. (You can see piles of dead Africans in Hotel Rwanda and Sahara but they wonít show the real thing on the TV news.) We have not one but two characters with traumatic family histories: Silvia Broome (Nicole Kidman), the UN linguist of the title, who lost folks in the Matobo fighting, and Tobin Keller (Sean Penn), a US Secret Service agent who drinks a lot and calls his wifeís answering machine. When Silvia overhears a possible assassination plot against one of Matoboís leaders, she and Keller are thrust together. The romance is not much more convincing than the mystery. Big mistake setting this at the UN ó itís a reminder that in films like North by Northwest Alfred Hitchcock never confused surface clutter with genuine suspense. (135 minutes)

BY PETER KEOUGH

Issue Date: April 22 - 28, 2005
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