I saw this movie at the end of its run in the movie theaters. My husband & son were not interested but I was intrigued by the reviews I had read so I went by myself. I do not care for gratuitous violence in movies. A really good movie, in the opinion of the men in my life, must have a violent death in the first 60 seconds and 25-30 violent scenes total -- car crashes, murders, blown up buildings, fight scenes. There is violence in this movie but it is not gratuitous and I found the movie much less violent than I expected. An explosion and murders occur but they are the type of violence that would happen if this film was relating a real life African political intrigue. The African political situation at the core of this movie is plausible which is more than can be said about the plots of many other movies. I thought the screen play for this movie was both well written and true to life. (I don't mean to imply implausible is the necessarily the same as bad-- some of the best movies ever are completely implausible.)
Nicole Kidman's character, a UN interpreter who is expert in African dialects, returns to her booth to pick up an item left behind. The UN floor appears to be empty but she inadvertently overhears a conversation about a planned assassination of the current leader of an African nation , a man who is due to make an appearance at the UN. The African nation is the one in which her family lived; she grew up there. She reports the overheard conversation to the FBI. The FBI, especially a grieving agent played by Sean Penn, does not believe her. They investigate her and find in her past life in Africa many reasons to doubt her story. However, they must investigate the planned assassination anyway even if they think it is bogus. It soon becomes clear as unexpected (some violent) events begin to take place surrounding the interpreter that something is going on although the FBI agent played by Sean Penn is unsure whether it is a real African based assassination plot or the interpreter reported the conversation to throw off suspicion from herself for something she is planning. At the same time, he finds himself drawn to her, the first woman who has interested him since the death of his wife. Nicole Kidman brings to her role the sort of class and reserve one would imagine a UN interpreter to possess. I found Sean Penn's tortured FBI agent portrayal sympathetic and very Sean Penn-ish. (I must admit I do not believe FBI agents are really so dishevelled looking. Perhaps I am just assuming as truth that FBI agents are "men in black.")
I enjoyed all of the plot twists (there ARE many) in this story, the unfolding of the mystery behind the overheard conversation, how it relates to the interpreter's past, the rise and fall of leaders in the African nation. This story was more layered than most thrillers (I have seen them; one can't help it with the men in my life). I would not call it a thriller at all, but a political mystery. It's a very good mystery movie and an unusual one. The movie is set in New York City and partially in Africa. The movie addresses political corruption and legal ethics (which crimes might be justifiable, which crimes should be punished). The UN scenes are fascinating to someone (like me) with an interest in world politics. If you have such an interest too, you may enjoy this movie as I did.
BTW on nit-picking reviews: I have noticed some negative reviewers who have nit-picked the movie to justify their thumbs down for it (one review: chess board mistake, "booger" sighting). My husband, too, likes to pick out nits in the movies he did not like. Recently, I have been drawing his attention to the nits in the movies he loves: a little reminder that there are unbelievable situations and errors in his favorite movies too. His attitude is "so what?" I guess we honestly do not mind nits in the movies we like and they loom large and overwhelming in the movies we hate. And then there are the movies that are so bad, no one likes them! Still I would like to see negative reviews that explain more fully why the reviewer did not like the movie. It would be more helpful to amazon customers.