The fate of fictional world diplomacy hangs in the balance in The Interpreter, Sydney Pollack’s crummy – and politically gutless – suspense yarn about a Secret Service agent (Sean Penn) who investigates a United Nations interpreter’s (Nicole Kidman) claim that she overhead a plot to kill a visiting African dictator, only to discover that she might be involved in orchestrating the assassination. The first Hollywood production shot in the U.N.’s hallowed halls, Pollack’s film is nonetheless too cowardly to address actual global events, instead concocting a make believe African country called Matobo, a fictional dialect called Ku (which Kidman and company speak with straight faces), and endless speeches about how revenge (whether personal or national) corrupts the soul and should be forsaken in favor of forgiveness. It’s hardly surprising to find liberal power player Penn making a movie extolling the greatness of peaceful U.N. mediation, but by draining any pertinent real-world discourse from the proceedings, Pollack also makes his film irrelevant. As a straightforward detective story, there’s one great sequence involving a tension-wracked confluence of events on a NYC public bus, but the script (by Charles Randolph, Scott Frank and Steven Zaillian) doesn’t really know how to keep its cards close to the vest, and thus the shadowy villain is identifiable the moment he appears on screen. Coupled with some didactic, tin-ear dialogue and two great actors floundering in material beneath them (not to mention poor Catherine Keener, given the thankless role of Penn’s featureless sidekick), The Interpreter proves to be a political thriller afraid of politics and bereft of thrills.