The Interpreter, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, The Greatest: films on TV today

Nicole Kidman translates a murder, Ethan Hawke plans a robbery, while Muhammad Ali takes the title: the RadioTimes team’s pick of free-to-air films on TV today

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BARRY NORMAN: FILM OF THE DAY 
The Interpreter ★★★
10.00pm-12.35am ITV4 

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Nicole Kidman, an interpreter at the United Nations, overhears a plot to assassinate the Robert Mugabe-like dictator (liberator turned genocidal maniac) of the African country where she was born. That’s bad enough but, even worse, the plotters might have seen her. She tells the American Secret Service what she knows and they send agent Sean Penn to investigate and protect her. But he doesn’t believe her. Not at first, anyway. Something nasty in her background makes him suspicious and he knows about nasty backgrounds because he has one, too. It’s all a little overwritten but the story’s gripping enough with plenty of suspects and a good ration of action and thrills. Nice performances, authentic backgrounds and neat direction by Sydney Pollack


Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead ★★★★
11.15pm-1.30am Film Four  

Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon director Sidney Lumet is on home turf with this New York-set crime tale that sees brothers Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke planning the perfect crime to keep their finances, relationships and drug habits going. But that’s just the start of the story, since, when the plan goes awry, the two are caught up in a maelstrom of police investigation and family struggle. Lumet was 83 when he made the movie, and there’s the feeling, not only that he pours all his experience into the work, but that the quality cast, whose members all know how to play off each other, really wanted to do him proud. 


The Greatest ★★★
2.55-5.00pm Movie Mix 

This biopic of Muhammad Ali is an old-fashioned piece of work, but elevated by the charisma of its subject and star into a very enjoyable movie. Ali is also backed by a formidable cast, and the rags to riches tale is well put together by director Tom Gries, with the fight sequences being given extra realism by being real. Gries unfortunately died of a heart attack before the movie was released, but Ali is still with us at the age of 73. 


George A Romero’s Survival of the Dead ★★★
Premiere 9.00-10.50pm Horror Channel 

Who would have thought, when Night of the Living Dead was released in 1968, that George A Romero’s zombie franchise would lurch so successfully into the 21st century. This sixth instalment may not live up to the classic early outings, but once again, Romero’s guiding hand and irreverent outlook hasn’t let him down. The story is stolen from William Wyler’s 1958 western The Big Country, and sees two feuding families on an island off the coast of Delaware, but the flesh-eating and reanimation is all Romero’s own work. 


Girl, Interrupted ★★★
11.00pm-1.40am Movie Mix 

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This fact-based story of a young woman’s experience in a psychiatric institution was a labour of love for star/executive producer Winona Ryder, who insisted on casting Angelina Jolie as sociopath Lisa Rowe. Jolie was fresh from a Golden Globe-winning performance in Gia, and topped that here with a best-supporting actress Oscar, and indeed, makes most of the other inmates appear sane. Brittany Murphy, who does well in the role of Daisy, sadly died in 2009 at the age of only 32.