Review by Jack Foley
THERE’S something seriously wrong when a film combining two of the world’s most attractive stars, three talented writers and a highly rated director struggles to entertain.
But The Tourist, starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (of The Lives of Others) fame), and co-written by Florian, Julian Fellowes and Christopher (The Usual Suspects) McQuarrie is a deceptive affair that promises far more than it delivers.
While von Donnersmarck was undoubtedly aiming for a lighter touch than he displayed with his Oscar winner, and clearly aspires to the fun sophistication of past classics such as Charade and To Catch A Thief, his film consistently falls foul of limp characterisations, pedestrian action sequences and uninspired twists.
Jolie and Depp, meanwhile, struggle to ignite any on-screen fireworks, with the former content to look good in a classic Sophia Loren kind of way without really getting her hands dirty, and the latter finding his charisma curiously suppressed by the restrictions imposed by the average script.
And yet the plot has potential. Jolie plays Elise, a mysterious woman, whose every move is watched by Scotland Yard and Interpol in the hope that it may lead them to uncovering the identity of a former Mob accountant who has run off with millions.
After being contacted by this mystery thief with a view to setting up a meeting in Venice, Elise plucks an unsuspecting tourist (Johnny Depp’s Frank) from obscurity and uses him as both bait and cover to allow herself the opportunity to organise a reunion.
But matters become complicated when Frank, a heartbroken maths teacher, falls for Elise and the exotic, danger-filled lifestyle she leads.
Hunting them both, meanwhile, are the likes of Paul Bettany’s Scotland Yard detective and Steven Berkoff’s Mob boss.
Taken at face value, and given the presence of its two A-list stars, audiences had a right to expect something genuinely special. But the doubts begin early on as the anticipated chemistry between Jolie and Depp never really materialises.
Much of the blame has to lie with von Donnersmarck who, as both director and co-writer, struggles to find a consistent or believable tone. On the one hand, he tries to inject humour into the action sequences, but on the other he brings a heavy-handed element to some of the more violent aspects of Berkoff’s character.
And none of the situations his characters find themselves in strike as particularly fun… and that’s in spite of the film’s exotic Venice locations.
In terms of characterisation, too, the film fails. Depp’s Frank shows flashes of the actor’s usual sparkling eccentricity but is otherwise far too straight-laced and uninteresting, while Jolie appears content to combine elements of past performances (Tomb Raider for accent, Salt for character deception purposes) without ever convincing audiences that she’s equipped to deal with some of the more dangerous elements of the story (something her wardrobe doesn’t help).
It’s a huge waste of both actors’ talents and one of the most disappointing star powered vehicles in a long time.
But then the same wafer thin characterisation extends to the support players, with Bettany given virtually nothing to do except look exasperated, Berkoff riffing on past villains he’s played as well as every bad guy cliché, and Timothy Dalton completely squandered as Bettany’s impatient chief.
The set pieces, too, feel pedestrian by modern standards… with a rooftop chase showing obvious use of CGI elements and a speedboat chase through the canals only fleetingly quickening the pulse.
Even the last act ‘revelations’ feel half-hearted and half-cooked, with more discerning audiences likely to be one step ahead of everything that occurs.
The Tourist is therefore a deeply disappointing all-round experience made worse by the strength of the talent it wastes.
Running time: 107mins
UK Release Date: December 10, 2010