Film Review: The Tourist

2010 – 103mn – 12A

Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. Starring Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, Rufus Sewell, Steven Berkoff. Review by Walter Nichols.

THE Tourist opens with a scene of such ridiculous stupidity it takes you a couple of minutes to make sure you’re not watching one of those Orange spoof ads. Glamorous woman of mystery Elise Ward (Angelina Jolie) is being watched by Parisian police as she leaves her hotel. She walks down a small alleyway, and the police – in a van – start trailing her. They do so by driving extremely slowly five feet behind her, right to the caf� that is her destination. She, of course, notices them, but they have no inkling that their’s may not be optimum stakeout technique. She sits down to breakfast and they – discreetly – park right on the curb across the street from her patio table.

I know what you’re about to say but no, this is not played for laughs. The scene is meant to be a cool Hitchcockian set up for the rest of the film, mildly poking fun at French police, but the balance of tone is completely out of sync. The sad thing is matters only get worse, and by the time credits roll you’ll be wondering how anyone could’ve written such nonsensical drivel – not only that, but how rather than ending up on YouTube, it actually bagged Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie to star.

The two biggest film stars in the world for some reason chose The Tourist to be their first outing together. The paper-thin story concerns American everyman Frank (Depp), who meets a glamorous stranger (Jolie) while in Venice and, mistaken for someone else, finds himself chased by Scotland Yard, Interpol, and some very nasty Russian gangsters. The MacGuffin is two billion pounds stolen from said Russian gangsters, and the film is obviously meant as a modern take on North by Northwest. It unfortunately has none of its intelligence, none of its style, none of its panache. What it does have is two entertaining leads and gorgeous locations. Neither can make up for a plodding script and the lack of much action (there’s one fun boat chase and a short-lived rooftop chase, but neither is sustained or original). Whatever merit the film has is further marred by a pair of boneheaded, disingenuous twists in the third act.

Jolie dusts off her Tomb Raider British accent, and manages to make a cipher of a character interesting simply by being breathtakingly, dazzlingly beautiful to look at (put most of the two stars at the bottom of this review down to that, whatever your gender). Depp tries his best to play Frank as a normal person, but if there’s one thing Johnny Depp – a fantastic actor – can’t do, it’s “normal”. His Frank has a Robert Downey Jr. beard, Alan Davies hair, and the mannerisms of Jack Sparrow on a small dose of Valium. You never believe for a second he’s actually a maths teacher from Wisconsin.

If it’s worth mentioning, the stars do have chemistry, and as a film fan, you genuinely hope to see them share the screen again – hopefully in something more worthwhile.

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Star rating: 2 out of 5 stars