The Interpreter

Movie review by
Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media
The Interpreter Movie Poster Image
This intense thriller is best for older teens.
  • PG-13
  • 2005
  • 128 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

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.

What 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).

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bypaigeturner89 April 9, 2008
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

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.

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.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate