Sidney Pollack's The Interpreter definitely makes a point of depicting the city in grand panoramic style, with plenty of overheads and shots on bridges. There are street scenes, as Nicole Kidman goes in and out of her apartment on Stuvesant and 10th, rides her Vespa up Lafayette Street and Fourth Avenue, and walks in and out of the U.N. building. There is even a few scenes in the outer boroughs, with nods to Crown Heights and Long Island City. But there is something blank and unfamiliar in the way the city is used as a backdrop. Almost as though it's an outsider's way of looking at the city.
This may be on purpose, as Kidman is supposed to be from Africa and her interest in living in New York is solely because the United Nations is located there. If anything, the U.N. building itself seems the most familiar and intimate place in the movie, with lots of beautiful shots and behind-the-scenes views a building that few see regularly. It may also be the nature of an action movie to focus on the characters and the action, so that even when they are riding in a limo down Second Avenue or gazing at the skyscrapers from the Queensboro Bridge, they are one step removed from the genuine people and interactions in the city. One nice touch, however, was the use of NY1 reporter/anchor Pat Kiernan playing himself in one scene, reporting on a fictional international event.
What will strike many New Yorkers as most jarring is the graphic bombing of an MTA bus towards the middle of the film. The sight of dead and wounded pssengers strewn on a city street breaks some of the shell of calm that has been gradually growing over our collective psyches since 9/11. It's not so much the scene itself that's unbelievable, however, it's also the fact that such a major event is brushed over so easily. If a terrorist were to blow up a bus in Crown Heights, it's hard to believe that the event wouldn't totally color the city in panic for at least a few days. The film is so wrapped up in the plot around Kidman and Sean Penn that the dead and wounded become merely a footnote only a few minutes later as they are both on to new intrigue and danger.
On the whole, The Interpreter is not unsatisfying. The plot is a bit scattered, and there is a sense that many connecting scenes were left on the editing room floor, but it's beautifully shot and does raise a level of mystery and anxiety to make it worth seeing. As a document of NYC, however, it doesn't feel very real.