The Tourist may star the biggest celebrities on the planet, Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, but they are dwarfed by the film’s real star, that gorgeous monster, conspicuous consumption.
The film is first a wealth and beauty fantasy, a visual confection wrapped in glorious clothes, jewels, hotels, boats and views of Venice.
It also happens to be a fast paced spy caper, but only when Jolie’s not onscreen. When she is, the camera lingers on the perfection of her facial planes. But it lingers a trifle too long, and becomes uncomfortable and then funny.
It’s as though we are complicit in some kind of creepy stalking. The woman is extremely beautiful, of course, but the director doesn’t need to prove it to us endlessly.
Jolie plays a mystery woman named Elise who is being tracked by armed investigators who believe she will lead them to a man who stole billions from a gangster. She purposely engages a math teacher and widower from Wisconsin named Frank (Johnny Depp) on the train from Paris to Venice. She is enroute to the city to meet with her lover, the thief.
She has been instructed to find someone of her lover’s size and build and pretend he is the thief, to throw her pursuers off track. She invites Frank to stay in her luxurious Venetian hotel room, where they learn more about each other and then sleep apart. Elise tells Frank she is in love with the wanted man who has apparently paid for the hotel room and a closet full of bling for her.
These sequences are pure luxury porn, silky negligees, crispy white bed linens, war, dark and gilt woods that Jolie manages to caress, etc.
Soon, agents and gangsters are popping out of every corner, conveniently easily identifiable in black suits and coats, gunning for Elise and Frank, whom they believe is their quarry. Turns out Elise is a worthy fugitive and strategist, with sophisticated knowledge of locks, weaponry and boats.
Seems like fun to put this incredibly dainty example of female pulchritude in the traditionally tough male role, and contrast her with a milquetoast male sidekick who veers to paunch. It might have been fun if the script had been any good.
But it is not. The drama, chases, plot twists and character development are contrived, labored and lack originality.
There are lines that can only be described as howlers. It’s embarrassing to watch these huge stars trapped in a script that never gets off the ground, like chickens trying to fly, but who dare to try.
The presence of Timothy Dalton, Paul Bettany and Rufus Sewell does nothing to improve this sorry (but gorgeous) Bond wannabe. Bond set a high bar, and the formula is not easily copied.
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck who directed the excellent drama The Lives of Others in 2006, disappoints with this flaccid outing. The talent he showed has been squandered on the obvious and a deeply flawed script which he co-wrote.
Jolie and Depp fans may want to take time to see The Tourist and it is highly recommended for lovers of Venice and stylish clothing, but drama fans should steer clear.
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35mm action adventure
Written by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Christopher McQuarrie, Julian Fellowes and Jérôme Salle
Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, The Lives of Others
Opens: Dec 10
Runtime: 105 minutes
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for violence and brief strong language