Movie: The Interpreter – is it an accurate depiction?

flags waving on old ornate city building on fine day

Interpreting is a critical profession that involves conveying messages accurately and professionally from one language to another. Interpreters often work in high-stakes settings such as international business, legal proceedings, medical appointments, and diplomacy. The Interpreter is a 2005 thriller movie directed by Sydney Pollack, starring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn. The film portrays the life of an interpreter at the United Nations who becomes embroiled in an assassination plot.

However, the question remains, is The Interpreter an accurate representation of the role of an interpreter?

In this article, we will analyse the portrayal of interpreting in The Interpreter and provide a comprehensive overview of the profession. We will examine the accuracy of the movie's depiction of interpreting, the responsibilities of interpreters, the necessary skills, and the importance of ethical and cultural considerations in the field of interpreting.

The Interpreter: A Critical Review

The Interpreter is a movie that explores the complexities of interpreting and the dangers that can arise when interpreters become involved in political conspiracies. The film depicts the life of Silvia Broome, an interpreter at the United Nations, who overhears a conversation about an assassination plot against a controversial African head of state. Silvia reports the plot to the authorities and becomes embroiled in a dangerous game of cat and mouse as she tries to stay alive while uncovering the plot's mastermind.

While The Interpreter offers an engaging and suspenseful storyline, its portrayal of interpreting has been criticised for its inaccuracies. For example, the movie suggests that interpreters have the power to influence world events and can act as agents of change. However, in reality, interpreters are neutral parties who remain impartial and convey messages accurately, without adding their opinions or biases. Additionally, The Interpreter overlooks the fact that interpreters undergo rigorous training and adhere to professional standards to ensure quality and accuracy in their work.

The Role of an Interpreter

The primary role of an interpreter is to facilitate communication between people who speak different languages. Interpreters are crucial in settings such as business negotiations, conferences, courtrooms, hospitals, and international diplomacy. They must have the ability to convey meaning accurately and efficiently between languages, while ensuring that cultural and social nuances are appropriately conveyed.

Interpreters are required to be fluent in both languages and possess strong listening and memory skills. They must be able to listen carefully and understand the context of the conversation while simultaneously rendering the message accurately in the target language. Moreover, interpreters must be able to think quickly and creatively to find appropriate solutions to any linguistic or cultural difficulties that may arise.

Skills and Qualifications

Interpreters require a set of skills and qualifications to perform their job effectively. Fluency in both languages is an essential requirement, but interpreters must also possess excellent communication, interpersonal, and analytical skills. Additionally, interpreters must have excellent memory retention, as they must be able to recall and convey complex ideas, concepts, and vocabulary.

To become a professional interpreter, individuals must undergo rigorous training to develop their skills and gain the necessary experience. They may obtain a degree in interpretation, undergo professional training, or gain experience through apprenticeships or internships. Moreover, interpreters must have an in-depth understanding of the cultural, social, and political issues relevant to the languages they work with.

Ethical Considerations

Interpreting is a profession that requires ethical considerations. Interpreters must remain impartial and neutral and ensure that they do not add their personal biases or opinions to the message they convey. Additionally, interpreters must maintain confidentiality and privacy in their work, ensuring that they do not disclose any information that they hear during the course of their work.

Moreover, cultural competence is an essential aspect of interpreting.


In conclusion, The Interpreter is a thrilling movie that explores the complexities of interpreting in a high-stakes setting. While the movie provides entertainment, it falls short in accurately portraying the role of an interpreter. The profession of interpreting is critical in facilitating communication between people who speak different languages and involves the conveyance of accurate and culturally appropriate messages.

Interpreters must possess excellent language skills, analytical abilities, and cultural competence to effectively convey messages. Additionally, interpreters must adhere to professional standards, maintain ethical considerations, and remain neutral and impartial in their work.

It is crucial to understand the importance of interpreting in today's globalized world, and we must appreciate the vital role that interpreters play in enabling communication and understanding between people from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. By valuing and supporting the work of interpreters, we can help promote accurate and effective communication, which is essential for building strong relationships and achieving success in today's interconnected world.