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Storyline (warning: spoilers)
The Translators is set within the bookish confines of best-selling paperbacks and their ruthless publishers, following a group of talented polyglots caught in a scenario straight out of Agatha Christie. What could have been a dull and very French lecture in modern linguistics becomes a high-stakes whodunit where the usual suspects are not your typical movie culprits. Superficial but enjoyable, in a guilty, pleasure sort of way, just like any good airport novel.
The plot revolves around the upcoming release of the third instalment in the fictive Daedalus trilogy, a Millennium-style global sensation that’s made the fortune of Angstrom Publishing and its sinister CEO, Eric Lambert. In order to put the book out simultaneously in all major territories, Eric has hired a crack team of nine translators with just over a month to get the job done, giving them draconian working rules that keep them under armed surveillance in a tricked-out bunker beneath a chateau. With bilingual dictionaries aplenty, the group hails from around the world and uses French as a common language, with occasional forays into their native tongues.
When the first 10 pages of the novel leak online, with more to come if Angstrom doesn’t pay a hefty ransom, Eric forces a nuclear lock-down to find out who the culprit is. Fingers get pointed, rooms get searched, nationalities get insulted and soon, guns are drawn and shots fired. It all seems like a bit much for a manuscript, but when you realise the Millennium books have sold over 100 million copies worldwide it’s clear what the stakes are here.
There are plenty of hints to help us solve the enigma, including the introduction of an old bookseller who becomes a key factor of the plot, but the director is also smart enough not to give his full game away until the closing minutes. Things pick up nicely again toward the start of the last act, especially during a well-crafted Paris-set heist sequence, leading to a denouement that tosses in more twists for the road.