Published Dec 09, 2010Beautiful people in lovely settings can make for fine eye candy, but without tension, a coherent story or any sense of drama, The Tourist is like a slideshow of privilege and rarefied air that never deigns to be anything close to human.
Angelina Jolie is far from us mere mortals, but is often a talented enough performer to convince us otherwise; here, she swans about in elegant ball gowns and million-dollar jewellery like she's in a European perfume commercial. Johnny Depp, on the other hand, has connected most often when he embraces his not-so-inner oddball, but in The Tourist, he's stuffed his quirks so far down he becomes the everyman version of a wet blanket. The material is slight enough that it's a wonder either one signed on for the project. The same goes for the collective talent of director von Donnersmarck (who stunned with the quiet, intense The Lives of Others) and his co-writers, Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) and Julian Fellowes (The Young Victoria).
As the film opens, Elise Clifton-Ward (Jolie) is under constant surveillance as she dresses carefully in her sheer-curtained European apartment, giraffe-marches her high fashion model self down to the local cafe and receives mail from a white-gloved courier on a delicate silver platter. (The last part is an exaggeration, but not much of one.) The note is from her fugitive lover, who gives her precise instructions on how to throw off the authorities in order to join him in Venice; she complies, setting off a flurry of vague police action in non-descript offices of authority by the likes of Paul Bettany and Timothy Dalton. Boarding a train to Venice, Elise selects a random tourist (Depp), scolds and manipulates him into doing whatever she wants, and he follows her like a dim puppy dog to a luxurious Venice hotel that exists only in the world of people who look like Angelina Jolie.
Naturally, Depp (who's apparently on a soul-searching trip following the death of his wife) gets mistaken for Clifton-Ward's fugitive lover, a man who stole billions from an English mobster. The mobster should, by all logic, be the threat to their safety, but instead it's Bettany and Dalton, who on behalf of the British government, want their due in back taxes. (Seriously.)
Ignoring the fact that he's supposed to be mourning his dead wife, Depp's Frank Tupelo declares his love within 24 hours. Despite the fact that she's been awaiting word from her fugitive lover for two years, Jolie's Elise Clifton-Ward has no qualms about flirtatiously teasing Tupelo, including inviting him to a fancy dress ball for which she seems ever-prepared.
On the surface, the premise of The Tourist, while familiar, has tons of potential for good action sequences, plays on mistaken identity and commentary on class and privilege ― one can imagine Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in just such a film. None of that potential is realized and The Tourist rests on the beautiful laurels it offers us, hoping they will be enough. (Sony)