By Gary Murray
Starring Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Paul Bettany and Timothy Dalton
Written by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck and Christopher McQuarrie and Julian Fellowes
Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Running time 103 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating Cable
Alfred Hitchcock was the master of the thriller. He could take different plot elements and weave a tale that just left one on the edge of the seat. He made the impossible look easy. So it comes as little surprise that others would try and emulate the style. While some makers nail every aspect of the genre, other just make pale imitations. The latest thriller in this style is The Tourist.
The plot of The Tourist is a basic case of mistaken identify. The film opens with Elise (Angelina Jolie) being watched by an international group of government agents. It seems that she is the connection with an international man of mystery named Pearce. She receives a letter from him at a Paris cafe instructing her to go to the train station. Elise burns the letter and takes off while the agents retrieve the ashes.
She is told to take the train to Venice and find a man with Pearce’s similar build. Pearce wants the authorities to think that the stranger Elise contacts on the train is him with massive plastic surgery. Enter Frank (Johnny Depp) the American tourist. While she makes small talk with Frank, the government men take pictures, making Frank the object of interest. This tips off the bad guys, people Pierce has bilked for a ton of money. The bad guys want their money back and believe that Frank is Pierce.
The agents are lead by Paul Bettany and Timothy Dalton. Where Paul thinks that the entire train ride and picking of Frank is a part of some elaborate plan, Timothy sees something different. They follow the action of the bad guys hoping to catch the real Pearce, a man wanted in many different countries.
In Venice, Elise and Frank share a hotel room, checked-in as husband and wife, and are seen out at dinner. While the bad guys think Frank is Pierce, the government men think that Frank will flush out the real Pierce. It is all a game of cat and mouse where everyone is not exactly who they appear to be. The film twists and turns to a conclusion that just borders on silly.
The problem is that director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck doesn’t know exactly what kind of film he is making. He uses James Bond locations and shoots them with a bitter lens, never finding the charms of the cities. There are few action pieces and fewer romantic tensions. He never ignites a spark between his two leads, two of the most accomplished performers of their generations. The film never finds a its heart, never finds the rock solid beat it needs to drive the action. Since he never finds a story, he cannot find anything exciting for his actors to deliver. He wastes just about every element in his toolbox on an idea that just didn’t translate from the 2005 original flick.
To be honest, Johnny Depp looks bored with his role as Frank. The over-the-top flair just isn’t here. Most of his most famous characters were just that–characters–full of vigor and crazed. Here he comes across more as a dry fish, barely moving and stinking-up the scenery. There are a couple of minor action sequences but he is mostly just acted-upon and not in control of the situation.
While Angelina Jolie is one of the most attractive actresses working in Hollywood, she does little more than primp and pose. There is barely any true acting in the part. She looks superb but the script doesn’t give her much to work with. She is part femme fatale and part wounded bird, but never commits to either side. She is in love with Pearce, a man who hurt her but also falls for Frank, which make her seem fickle. Still, she is amazing to look at and Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck does justice to her beauty.
The Tourist is going to draw some serious crowds due to the name recognition of the two leads. But, it is not as exciting as the trailer and doesn’t build much suspense. It is a thriller with little thrills.