The Interpreter

  • Review Date: October 2, 2005
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2005
  • Running Time: 128 minutes

Common Sense Media says

This intense thriller is best for older teens.
  • Review Date: October 2, 2005
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2005
  • Running Time: 128 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

This movie deals with heavy themes including racism, genocide, and the desire for revenge.


Realistic representations of shooting deaths and a terrorist bomb attack.


A scene in a strip club with a lap dance; dancer wears a thong and is scene topless from behind.


Some profanity.


Starbucks coffee is visible and mentioned by name.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters drink and smoke.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie includes realistic representations of shooting deaths (in the first scene, committed by adolescent boys) and a terrorist bomb attack on a bus in Brooklyn. The political intrigue is occasionally complicated, involving discussions of assassination, genocide, racism, and the desire for revenge. Characters drink, smoke, and use some mild language (they also name and drink Starbucks coffee).

Parents say

Kids say

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What's the story?

THE INTERPRETER begins in Matobo, a fictional African nation, where a group of adolescent assassins kill two men who come to see a hidden mass grave. U.N. translator Silvia (Nicole Kidman) overhears an assassination threat when she's in U.N. headquarters after hours. Authorities are suspicious of Silvia's report, so they bring in Secret Service agents Keller (Sean Penn) and Woods (Catherine Keener). As Keller feels drawn to Silvia, her story turns more complicated, with more dead bodies, genocide in her homeland and murders and terrorism plotted by associates of the Matoban dictator Zuwanie (Earl Cameron). Though Silvia has her own grudge against Zuwanie, she tries to convince Keller that her interest in only incidental. Zuwanie plans an address at the U.N. (an effort to cajole the West/U.S., to maintain power), and Silvia is put under surveillance by the cops, the FBI, Zuwanie's security detail, and the apparent assassins. Keller discovers Silvia's past participation in rebel activities, and she seems related to a bomb on a bus in Crown Heights (the explosion and aftermath are harrowing).

Is it any good?


Sydney Pollack's thriller is at once topical and abstract. While its subject matter is immediate (African genocide, U.S. intelligence agency confusions, personal and collective traumas), it maintains a certain distance by setting its political and economic strife in a fictional nation that resembles Zimbabwe. The opening imagery is quite explicit.

The script alternates between preposterous and poetic (some of Penn and Kidman's exchanges are lovely), and leans heavily on coincidence. It's also troubling that Silvia's individual trauma tends to displace the genocide in Africa, a life-and-death issue that is slowly gaining more media attention, in fiction and other forms. That a white woman bears the visible burden of this violent history, however, obscures the high costs for black Africans, a conventional strategy to attract "mainstream" (white) viewers.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the U.N.'s roles in world peacekeeping and diplomacy, as well as recent turmoils in Sudan, Rwanda, or Zimbabwe. Families can also talk about the way that children are affected by daily and traumatic violence. Is vengeance the only or most effective response to violence? How do you know when you can trust a friend or a colleague?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:April 22, 2005
DVD release date:October 4, 2005
Cast:Catherine Keener, Nicole Kidman, Sean Penn
Director:Sydney Pollack
Studio:Universal Pictures
Run time:128 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:violence, some sexual content and very brief strong language.

This review of The Interpreter was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 13 years old Written byxotitanicox May 4, 2009

Great movie!

Nicole Kidman is great in this captivating thriller. Enjoyed it all the way through!
Teen, 17 years old Written byCSM Screen Name... April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

Complex story and charcters make this film good

Not for kids under 14. Very complex story and it has a mild sex scene. The movie is great but it has a horrible ending but its still worth seeing.
Adult Written bypaigeturner89 April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age


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