FlixChatter Review: The Tourist

A few of people’s tweets on Twitter yesterday read that The Tourist is ‘less than the sum of its stars.’ Well, that quip definitely has merit because despite the star wattage of the two leads, the movie is never luminous enough to really dazzle.

Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp play characters with opposite personalities. Jolie is Elise, a beautiful woman who’ve been followed by the police for her dalliance with Alexander Pearce, an enigmatic figure wanted for embezzlement. Depp’s character Frank on the other hand, is as ‘ordinary’ as they come, a Community College math teacher from Wisconsin! Elise deliberately crosses his path on a train to Venice, an order from her lover to find a tourist in his likeness and make people believe that man is him.

It’s an intriguing premise all right, it promises a smart cat and mouse thriller with a web of intrigue, romance and danger. That last bit was from the plot synopsis in RottenTomatoes, which obviously judging from the dismal 20% rating, most critics don’t think the movie delivers the goods. I couldn’t help peeking at some of the reviews before I saw it Friday night. But the worse the reviews get, the more curious I became to see it. I mean, how bad could it be? Well, let me just say, it actually isn’t as bad as they make it out to be. But that’s really not saying much as I went in with pretty low expectations.

Much of the critics’ gripes is on the lack of chemistry between Jolie and Depp, but to me that’s a lesser of a problem that Jolie’s ludicrous overacting. Right from the time the movie opens with her being watched and the police tailing [as well as drool over] her, it’s as if Jolie thinks she’s in a two-hour long modeling shoots. She doesn’t ‘act’ as much as ‘poses’ the entire movie and her giant eyes and lips do much of the acting for her. Alas, I find her face so distracting from some of her scenes, i.e. the super red lipstick she wears to a canal-side dinner so overpowers her delicate features; and in others, her overly smoky eye-makeup makes her already giant eyes look disproportionately bigger. Not to mention her ultra glamorous and icy-cold persona—which doesn’t remotely resemble any real human being—makes it impossible to warm up to Elise. She is supposed to be a woman in love but the only person she appears to be in love with is herself and the reaction she gets from men that the director tirelessly keep pounding at us. Ok, she’s attractive, we get it. Let’s move on shall we?

As for Depp, though at first I thought he was miscast, he invariably fares better here. It’s refreshing to see him plays a ‘normal’ guy, well, as normal as he can get whilst still retaining that quirky sensibilities we love about him. As I said in my previous Tourist post, Depp in his goofy mode seems to get the befuddled look down pat and the minute I see Frank on the train, I immediately likes him. Frank provides such an amusing contrast to the sly and controlled Elise and his admiration of his beauty is believable. That ‘ravenous’ quip you’ve seen in the trailer comes out pretty funny in the movie.

As for the supporting cast, two of which are the main reason I saw this on opening night, they did their best with how little material they’re given to work with. Rufus Sewell looks all dashing and debonair in his practically no-speaking part, but his character is actually pretty significant to the plot. Timothy Dalton has a smidgen more screen time as the Chief Inspector Jones, and it was indeed a treat to see him up on screen and hearing him say his lines only Dalton could. But all that only left me wishing to see more of them on screen. I could see Dalton in the role of the head gangster, he’d easily add more charm as well as menace than the way Steven Berkoff plays it.

Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck seems to want to pay homage to the classic Bond flicks with a little bit of Hitchcock and other classic capers. The thing is, this movie merely hints at something great and the concept does have a lot of potential. Alas, the script never goes anywhere, as the story merely glides as leisurely as the pretty gondolas on the Venice canals, leaving us with quite lackluster action sequences with no real sense of danger to the main characters. At least Donnersmarck was able to keep the plot from being too predictable, the twist at the end is the kind that makes you ‘whoa!’ That one hit me out of left field, but with plot holes the size of Texas, the whole thing feels almost as preposterous as that infamous invisible car in Die Another Day.

I’d still recommend this one for a rental though. It’s still an entertaining fare to spend a mindless afternoon on… if anything, you won’t be disappointed by the gorgeous cinematography of Venice and Paris, those breathtaking shots can practically double as a tourism video. But as any good filmmaker should know, pretty scenery plus pretty people minus a crooked script will never amount to a good movie.

2.5 out of 5 reels

P.S. The two-and-a-half stars are for Sewell, Dalton and the city Venice 🙂

Anybody else has seen this flick? Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.