Angelina Jolie as Elise Clifton-Ward
Johnny Depp as Frank Tupelo
Paul Bettany as Acheson
Timothy Dalton as Jones
Steven Berkoff as Ivan Demidov
Rufus Sewell as The Englishman
Bruno Wolkowitch as French Sergeant
Mhamed Arezki as French Courier
Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
A schoolteacher from Wisconsin named Frank Tupelo (Johnny Depp) meets a mysterious and beautiful woman on a train (Angelina Jolie) and immediately becomes the target for Scotland Yard and a cadre of gangsters who think Frank is the elusive thief known as Alexander Peirce.
There’s a well-known riddle questioning how many people it takes to screw in a lightbulb and another adage about too many cooks spoiling the broth. When you put the two together, you’re likely to end up with something like “The Tourist.” Is it a romance movie, a thriller, a comedy, an action movie? Who knows? Certainly not the filmmakers who lucked out beyond their wildest dreams by signing Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie into the leading roles, because at that point, nothing else really mattered.
The movie is in fact a remake of a little known French thriller from 2005 called “Anthony Zimmer,” and yes, for those keeping track, this is the second American remake of a recent French thriller in the last month. Be as it may, the movie starts off well enough as we meet Jolie’s Elise Clifton-Ward, a mysterious dragon lady who seems to be Scotland Yard’s only connection to a wanted thief named Alexander Peirce. As the story begins, she receives a message from the enigmatic man without a face to find a tourist to pretend to be him in order to throw the police off his track, but the gangster Peirce stole money from is also still looking for him. When Elise meets Depp’s Frank Tupelo on a train, he seems like the perfect patsy, and the game of seduction and pursuit begins in earnest once all of the parties converge on Venice.
The biggest problem with “The Tourist” is that the superstar pairing have absolutely zero chemistry, so the very essence of what may have the film appealing to moviegoers–the thought of two mega-superstars getting romantic on screen–is completely absent. As often as the movie tries to capitalize on Jolie’s looks, it doesn’t quite have Depp’s usual charm and personality. We’ve become so enured to seeing Johnny Depp playing wild over-the-top scenery-chewing characters that when he plays an average guy, it’s quite boring because the character lacks all the charm and personality that makes Depp such a presence on screen. In fact, while it’s very easy to figure out what Frank sees in Elise, it’s not quite clear what she sees in him because he’s kind of a hapless schmoe who is way out of his league. The fact that a former James Bond like Timothy Dalton offers more charisma in his two or three brief appearances makes you realize why Depp might be better off sticking to the eccentric characters with wigs and prosthetics.
Not that it would be possible for Depp to chew up any scenery in a movie that’s essentially “location scout porn” as “The Lives of Others” director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck basks in the Paris and Venice locations with lots of aerial shots that effectively turns the cities into characters that end up being far more interesting than any of the humans. By the way von Donnersmarck directs the movie, you would think he was remaking a movie from the ’30s or ’40s with every shot being perfectly framed to create the most glamorous look possible. Knowing that the script and performances couldn’t possibly stand up to the scenery, the entire film is smothered by an overpowering score that governs whether the movie is going to be a romance or a thriller or a comedy at any given moment, often switching gears in a matter of seconds.
The minimal action isn’t very impressive either, from Depp’s character running across a rooftop in pajamas to a slow boat chase and other lame stunts that could have easily been handled by Depp without the need of a stunt double. Jolie doesn’t get too involved in any of it except to steer the boat looking gorgeous during the chase. It’s disappointing that we see none of the fierceness she’s displayed in “Salt” and “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” instead glamming it up with a number of costume changes and turning into the “damsel in distress” character that should be below her.
The script, which includes contributions from two Oscar winners, is filled with so many movie clichés it’s not particularly hard to figure out the “big twist” from the very get-go, but it’s just more proof of the laziness involved in making an action thriller that doesn’t stand up to other films in the genre. Still, one can’t help but be impressed by marketing that makes the movie look fun and exciting, of which it is neither.
The Bottom Line:
Another painfully dull movie about an American in Europe hoping to capitalize on the looks and fame of its stars makes “The Tourist” the thematic sequel to George Clooney’s “The American”… one that nobody asked for.