The Movie Waffler French Film Festival UK 2021 Review - THE TRANSLATORS | The Movie Waffler

French Film Festival UK 2021 Review - THE TRANSLATORS

the translators review
A multi-national group of translators are assembled to work on a secretive novel, but one of them appears to be a blackmailer.

Review by Eric Hillis

Starring: Régis Roinsard

Directing: ALex Lawther, Lambert Wilson, Olga Kurylenko, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Riccardo Scamarcio, Frédéric Chau, Patrick Bauchau

the translators poster

It's almost a decade since Régis Roinsard's directorial debut Populaire, a breezily adorable love letter to the Technicolor comedies of 1950s Hollywood. That movie revolved around the world of speed-typing, with lots of fetishised shots and montages of metal keys being struck by well-manicured nails. In his second feature, The Translators, it's not the keys that Roinsard is fetishising, but rather the words their strokes create. This Agatha Christie inspired whodunit-and-how-did-they-dunnit is a salute to the craft of storytelling with a very French anti-capitalist message about how art should belong to the people.

the translators review

Having acquired the coveted third novel of 'Dedalus', a global best-selling series written by secretive author Oscar Brach, sinister publisher Eric Angstrom (Lambert Wilson) assembles a crack team of multi-national translators in a fortified bunker and sets them to work converting the novel into their own languages. Some, like sultry Russian Katerina (Olga Kurylenko) and young English tyke Alex (Alex Lawther) are obsessive fans of Brach's work. Others, like grouchy Greek Marxist Konstantinos (Manolis Mavromatakis), consider it trash barely worth wrapping their fish and chips in. But most just view it as another paying job.

When Angstrom receives an anonymous email from a blackmailer claiming to have acquired the text of the novel, which they will release online if they don't receive a hefty ransom, he assumes the email has come from someone in the bunker. The suspects are interrogated and their rooms searched, but Angstrom comes up empty. With the manuscript having never left the bunker, Angstrom conducts an increasingly aggressive investigation to figure out who is responsible, causing the translators to turn on one another.

the translators review

Roinsard's mystery gradually evolves out of the bunker, jumping backwards and forwards in time as it teases details of what exactly is afoot here. These flash forwards and flashbacks are a welcome break from the claustrophobic setting of the bunker, and also allow Roinsard to pull off the occasional high tempo set-piece, like a thrilling homage to The French Connection that sees characters chasing a subway train as they attempt to pull off a rapid heist of sorts.

the translators review

Such diversions are all too rare however, and The Translators gets a little too bogged down in unspooling its complicated plot through entire scenes that serve as exposition dumps. You know how every Murder She Wrote episode ended with Jessica Fletcher explaining in a flashback how that week's murder was committed, and by whom? Well The Translators gives us more than few of these scenes, and after initially sucking us in with what feels like a slick Gallic take on Ocean's 11, Roinsard ends up testing our patience towards the climax as the gradually unveiled plot fails to stand up to too much logical scrutiny.

The Translators
 plays online at the French Film Festival UK from March 26th to 28th.

2021 movie reviews