The Interpreter

Hard to recommend. This was a well done political thriller about an attempted assassination of some president of an African country while he is at the U.N. building in New York. Brilliant performances by Sean Penn as the cop and Nicole Kidman as the Interpreter who overhears the assassination plot. What I liked about this film was an underlying theme that was explored about the effect of revenge on the soul of the avenger. Nicole’s brother is killed by this African president’s henchmen, a president whose origins is as a Nelson Mandela type figure who began as a freedom fighter for his country’s people, but when he got into power, he turned into a killer himself, slaughtering those who were against him. Well, we find out about a tradition of this African tribe who, when they catch a killer, they bind him and drop him in the river, and if the survivors of the victim want to, they can either let him drown as justice, or jump in and save him with mercy. If they save him, then the crime is atoned for and the criminal has redemption, but if they let him drown, they may have their justice, but they will live with the impact of their decision for the rest of their lives. Of course, this very parable is what this movie is about, as Nicole discovers the president killed her brother and then she must decide if she wants to kill the president or let him go. A saying, “Vengeance is a lazy form of grief” is said in the movie, along with some other very clever lines. I think this is a very thoughtful theme. We all too often think revenge will get us justice, but we do not think about its effect on us after we do. I think that this is also somewhat biblical. For example, as I understand the Law of God, the punishments prescribed by God for most crimes are victim oriented, meaning that they are maximum penalties (eye for an eye), but not absolute, in that the victim’s survivors do not have to press for the maximum penalty, UNLESS the Scriptures mandate a punishment. So, for example, God gives the right for a victim of an adultery to press for capital punishment, but this is not necessary if they choose forgiveness. But other crimes, like murder contain the pleonasm, “Dying he shall die,” which indicates a mandated penalty that the State must enforce regardless of individual charges. Biblical law is victim oriented. A great Must Read book that applies God’s Law to modern day terms is “Victim’s Rights” by Gary North. Boy, talk about the confusion that is cleared up in legal jurisprudence if people would just use the Creator’s directions when constructing legal theory. Anyway, there is one caveat that I would add. That is, biblically, the victim CAN experience just retribution in state enforced punishment and walk away feeling good knowing that justice is done and crime is atoned for. The difference is that the Bible says this is to be done through due process. That is, the victim can throw the first stone as long as the crime has gone through proper channels judicially through the State. The State is God’s ordained means of justice, NOT the individual. This is where so many miss the beauty and goodness of biblical justice. Eye for an eye is not about personal revenge, it is to be administered judicially through the state. Personal revenge is sin, punishment through the State is God ordained justice (Romans 12:17-13:6). So many think that Jesus was denying this “lex talionis” principle when he said to the accusers of a woman caught in adultery to cast the first stone if they were without sin (John 8). But a careful look into Old Testament law will yield the fact that Jesus was REINFORCING biblical law, not contradicting it. You see, the men who caught the woman were not following due process, they were being vigilantes operating outside the law courts. This was not biblical. AND the Law said they were supposed to stone BOTH parties of an adultery, so they were not following the Law, they were being partial. Also, the Law said that those who engaged in capital penalties on others could not themselves be guilty of a known crime (Deut 19:15; Num 17:7). All this to say that biblical justice can be experienced without soul guilt if it is done through due process of law. So vigilante vengeance is not biblical but capital punishment through the State is biblical. So when Nicole has the gun pointed at the president who killed her brother and many others, she forces him to read his own words he wrote about justice before he came to power. It’s a powerful thematic moment, but ultimately did not ring true to me because we see this genocidal monster “realize” what he had done wrong, and I just don’t believe that these monsters ever do recognize such evil in themselves outside of a religious conversion. You see, without God, there is ultimately nothing but power, might makes right. Without God, morality is arbitrary. This brings me to the main problem I have with the worldview of the film. The U.N. is depicted in this movie as the answer to our world’s hatred and evil. As if the U.N. represents the harmony that all nations should have. Nicole says, “Words and compassion are a better way, even if it’s slower than a gun.” Well, the bottom line is that a gun is the only thing that will stop genocidal maniacs, tyrants, and maniacal dictators. There simply is no reasoning with such evil men. Neville Chamberlain cried for peace and harmony in our time through compassion and words, and let Hitler almost destroy and kill them all, It took the “gun” of Winston Churchill to save them. Some evil can only be stopped by force, that is just and righteous force. The plain reality is that the UN is NOT about peace and harmony among nations, it is about two things: The dismantling of US hegemony and global socialism. THAT is not peace and harmony that is bigotry, hatred and tyranny. Hey, the UN sub-commission on the protection and promotion of human rights contains such shining beacons of human rights violators as Cuba, China, and Pakistan, and THEY talk about human rights as their hands are dripping with the blood of millions? I think not. The Interpreter is unfortunately self-righteous bumper sticker propaganda for one world socialism, or in other words, Communism. Too bad, cause it was a well-written political thriller, as genres go.