The Interpreter (HD DVD)

The Interpreter is a "diplomatic thriller," if such a thing is possible. And, having been a diplomatic correspondent for several years, I can tell you, the thrills, on the rare occasions they can be found, are wholly intellectual. And so it is with this movie. It offers a long, long windup to a fairly tame denouement.

Nicole Kidman plays a United Nations translator who happens to know the obscure dialect spoken in Matabo, a fictional African nation caught up in genocidal fratricide. Matobo could easily be Rwanda or Darfur, Sudan. Kidman is a native of this state, and perhaps the weakest part of this relatively weak film is her lame effort to affect an Afrikaner accent.

Stopping back in her translator booth late one evening to pick up a bag she left behind, Kidman overhears two men on the otherwise deserted floor of the General Assembly talking of their plan to kill the Matobon president when he comes to address the U.N. a few days later. Why they decided to step out onto this dark floor, wired for sound, to discuss their plot remains unexplained. Also unexplained is why, after hearing this whispered discussion, picked up by microphones, our hero chooses to turn on her overhead light, thereby showing her standing there, brightly lit with a shocked look on her face, through the glass of her translator booth.

And so begins a no-so-frightening effort to scare her into keeping her mouth shut.

Sean Penn plays a serious and formidable FBI agent, counter to his image in many previous movies as the irreverent bad boy.

I have no serious complaints about the audio or the video. Both were perfectly nice, but I would not classify this transfer as a first-rate high-definition experience. The 1080p video is clean and pleasant, but a bit soft. The colors were also muted, though I suspect that was the director's choice, not a feature of the disc. But I saw no compression problems or artifacts.

The Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack I auditioned offers few fireworks, though occasionally something stands out, such as police radios off to the left rear while action is underway front and center. Voices and other center-channel audio were clear and distinct.

A rich suite of extra features include deleted scenes and an interesting alternate ending. Among the other features is a "movie industry first," as the DVD calls it: "the never before filmed rooms of the U.N. headquarters." There's a reason they have never been filmed before. I have worked in the U.N., and it is a perfectly unremarkable collection of rooms.

This is perhaps a movie to rent, but it could just as easily be a movie to skip.

Picture: 7.5 (out of 10)…Sound: 7.5…Film: 7.0

Reviewed on Sony KDS-R60XBR2 1080p SXRD RPTV, Toshiba HD-A2 player via HDMI to a Lexicon HD12HD pre-pro, Proceed Amp5, and Infinity Composition MTS speakers.