Current Issue #488

Film Review: The Translators (Les Traducteurs)

Co-writer/director Régis Roinsard’s multilingual French/Belgian co-production begins well and showcases some strong, intense playing, but it eventually offers one too many plot-skewering/reversing twists.


The hotly-anticipated last book in a preposterously popular literary series is about to be unleashed globally, and narcissistic publisher Éric Angstrom (sleek Lambert Wilson) has gathered together nine supposedly genius linguists to translate the thing into their native tongues. This is all set to take place in a secluded bunker under armed guard (!) and with no communication with the outside world allowed, an improbable situation that would surely make titans like J.K. Rowling and Stephen King shake their heads in disbelief.

The translators include Russian Katerina Anisinova (Olga Kurylenko), Spanish Javier Casal (Eduardo Noriega), Dane Helen Tuxen (Sidse Babett Knudsen), Greek Konstantinos Kedrinos (Manolis Mavromatakis, who learnt French for the role) and show-off young English lad Alex Goodman (Alex Lawther from TV’s The End Of The F***ing World), and they’re naturally among the suspects when ten pages of the novel somehow leak online. How could it have happened? And will the now-virtually-imprisoned translators, despite their initial camaraderie, all turn on each other? Ah, mais oui!

There are plenty of rug-pulling surprises here, as well as a narrative that turns around and devours itself several times, and yet about halfway through this stops seeming devilishly clever and starts feeling contrived and irritating. And that’s a shame because the cast is often fine, with an especially scene-stealing turn from the Ukrainian-French Kurylenko, who manages to pop in a James Bond joke that distractingly reminds us that she was actually in Quantum Of Solace.

There are more than a few credibility gaps and contradictions too, and you also have to wonder, again, if any publishing firm across the world would ever go to so much damn trouble and expense to keep a major literary property under wraps. Particularly considering, it must be said, that too many millions of people out there simply don’t read.


Reviewer Rating

The Translators (M) is now screening at selected cinemas.

DM Bradley

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