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Like Knives Out last year, The Translators is essentially a take on the classic mystery format pioneered by Agatha Christie: introduce an ensemble of possible suspects, have a crime, toss in some red herrings and mysterious backstory, then reveal the criminal. Here, that format doubles down with the “locked room” mystery element, while removing a traditional detective character.
The set-up is ingenious: the final book in a global best-selling mystery trilogy has been written in French, and, in order to simultaneously release the book around the world without spoiling the contents, a group of translators have been employed to be locked away in a bunker and simultaneously translate the manuscript into their respective languages: Spanish, Mandarin, English, Danish, German, Greek. They have no internet or phone access and are absolutely under lock and key, even the supervision of guards, the conceit being that the world is waiting for this book, and any advance word on the contents would cause the loss of millions and millions in sales. Think the final Harry Potter crossed with the final Dragon-Tattooed Girl.
The thing is, pages do leak, and the mystery is, by whom, and how? The first act is great fun, but the film gets more ludicrous as it goes on. It’s always watchable – especially given the excellent global cast of familiar faces – and it comes to a definite resolution, but you can’t help wishing it adhered a little closer to credibility.