The Tourist Directed by: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck Cast: Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, Steven Berkoff, Timothy Dalton Running Time: 1 hr 43 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: December 10, 2010
PLOT: An American man (Depp) is mistakenly brought into an international manhunt when he becomes associated with a woman (Jolie) searching for her elusive fugitive husband.
WHO'S IT FOR? The pacing of the film calls for more mature viewers, or at least those who have fond recollections of classic picturesque thrillers kind of like To Catch A Thief. Without the romance.
EXPECTATIONS: Despite the two big cast members that were finally coming together on screen, I was mostly at The Tourist for von Donnersmarck. In 2006, he beat out films like Pan’s Labyrinth with The Lives of Others, his debut movie about surveillance during the cold war. Now with the director handling a story that looks like it might echo the style of something like From Russia With Love, it was curious to see how the director would fare with a larger cast, massive locations, and an even bigger audience.
Angelina Jolie as Elise Clifton-Ward: This would have been a great performance for Jolie if she were on-screen simply to sell make-up. Slathered on with a wide brush, Jolie’s lipstick and eyeliner are the only attributes that stand out most about her presence – that, or perhaps her hips that swing as if they’ve become motorized. Speaking with an acceptable British accent, Jolie takes Elise’s elegance too far – she’s a character in an exotic thriller, not a nineteenth century period piece. Score: 4
Johnny Depp as Frank Tupelo: Playing what Hitchcock would classify as “The Wrong Man,” Depp attempts to make half of his performance out of a redundant, “Who, me?” facial expression. The other half of his acting here is for the most part entertaining, Depp’s “clumsy American idiot” shtick makes for a good laugh at his expense, and also a couple of surprising chase scenes he's at the center of. Depp has adopted the shaggy style pretty intensely. So one question: Is the actor only considered handsome in the movies now whenever he looks like Jack White? Score: 5
Rest of Cast: Paul Bettany slightly heightens the amusement factor by playing the smart man trying to hold composure during most of the chaos that is created by Elise and Frank. Timothy Dalton would be able to do the same if he had more than a handful of lines, and the weird James Bond nudge by von Donnersmarck is complete with Steven Berkoff's appearance as a super-rich villain (who played a bad guy in Octopussy). For a good amount, Berkoff's character is a typical cliche nemesis, but he gives himself a little bit of a menacing edge in his final scene with Jolie. Score: 5
TALKING: The film's biggest shots at humor involve ignorant Frank confusing certain Italian words with those that are actually Spanish. (He says "gracias" instead of "grazie.") As it would if you were around a stranger who makes the same joke a few times, it gets old fast. Score: 4
SIGHTS: Venice looks particularly charming with the film’s on-location shooting, (but it’s still no Don’t Look Now). In general, von Donnersmark doesn’t appear to be very interested in the usual Hollywood visual agenda. He only uses a couple of landscape covering helicopter shots, and he even cuts the film's few moments of kissing in the film remarkably shorter than usual (sometimes almost abruptly). Slow motion is used in only one scene during The Tourist, and its placement is certainly effective in a strange way. Score: 7
SOUNDS: James Newton Howard's score is elegant, whether it features strings balancing on a high wire accompanied by electronic drums, or is presenting a pretty waltz that adds audible beauty to the film's extravagant imagery. The closing credits do not begin with something classically romantic, as Howard's score might indicate, but instead Muse's "Starlight." It's a somewhat bold choice, and a memorable one. Score: 7
BEST SCENE: How to make chase scenes more exciting in city landscapes? Take away the shoes of the person being chased. Watching Depp leap between buildings and crashing on tiles was more exciting than I would have thought.
ENDING: I'm still mulling over whether the film's big twist is fair or not. Either way, the choices that The Tourist makes in order wrap everything up is unconventional enough to interesting. One can imagine Usual Suspects screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie walking up to von Donnersmarck, who is sitting in front of his typewriter, and whispering into his ear, "I've got an ending you could use that's worked for me before. You just have to put my name on the subway ads."
QUESTIONS: As pointed out by a colleague, why do the Interpol sharpshooters have Russian accents? What's next for Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck? I hope we don't have to wait another four years for his next film. And either way, is the director hinting at a desire for James Bond with this movie, or is it just me?
REWATCHABILITY: With the proper amount of chemistry lacking and the thrills built up to a conclusion that might not be as clever as it seems, The Tourist doesn't feel like an experience I'd want to revisit any time soon. Maybe down the road I'd watch it with someone who hadn't seen it before, just to double check my thoughts on it. But I'd probably prefer to watch The Lives of Others again.
Megastars Depp and Jolie provide scenery more than they do the amount of chemistry that The Tourist requires to fuel its sense of adventure. Their established auras (her suave, him clumsy) don’t spark as much as they should, with Jolie especially playing a character too dry to be alluring outside of her consistently championed physical appearance. The film’s three Oscar-winning screenwriters are the true main protagonists of The Tourist, as they expand the movie with so many different subplots that eventually the tension to keep audiences interested is present, even if it’s a tad forced. With two exciting chase sequences taking advantage of the Venice landscape, the script has enough tricks up its sleeve to keep it from being an international thriller without any particular zest. Perhaps it was the writers’ own chemistry that rescued this awards-season escape from becoming a complete disaster.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10