When an interpreter for the United Nations (Nicole Kidman) overhears a plot to assassinate a visiting dignitary, the investigating agent (Sean Penn) senses she’s hiding something. Five writers (Martin Stellman, Brian Ward, Charles Randolph, Scott Frank and Steven Zaillian) concocted this Hitchcock-and-bull story, but in all the plotting, they neglected to develop characters we care about. Penn and Kidman are both unappealing—he mopey and hangdog, and she icy and remote. (Catherine Keener as Penn’s partner is more interesting than either of them.) There’s one good sequence on a bus, and there’s a glossy high-tone look, but Sydney Pollack’s direction is surprisingly slack, with little suspense. Mild curiosity is the most the movie can arouse. James Newton Howard’s blaring music is a constant distraction.