One can only assume that Depp wanted to work with von Donnersmarck badly enough to ignore the glaring deficiencies in the script.
The Tourist is by far one of the most disappointing films of the year. This disappointment stems from pretty much every aspect of the movie, which tries to be a romantic spy thriller in the vein of The 39 Steps or even Duplicity (which was a far superior effort). Instead it ends up being a strange mix of slapstick, double identities and drama. Watching The Tourist is akin to watching a YouTube mash-up of 10 vastly different takes on the genre, all blended together.
Typically the director catches the majority of the blame when a movie like this one fails so epically, but director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck is too talented of a filmmaker to be held totally at fault. The Tourist is only von Donnersmarck’s second feature film. He can be forgiven his mistakes and missteps mainly because of his brilliant first film, The Lives of Others, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2007 and is agreed to be one of the best films of the 2000s. In that film, von Donnersmarck shows that he has the natural gift for narration and an ability to capture the subtle nuances of how people interact.
The director also co-wrote the script (based on a French film) with Christopher McQuarrie, who wrote The Usual Suspects and will pen Darren Aronofsky’s The Wolverine. The biggest problem with The Tourist is the disjointed script, which makes absurd leaps in logic and demands too many indulgences from the audience in disregarding massive holes in the story.
The setup is that an American tourist, Frank (Johnny Depp), is dragged into an international sting operation arranged to apprehend a master thief named Alexander Pierce. A mysterious and alluring woman, Elise (Angelina Jolie), picks Frank seemingly at random and thrusts him into the middle of an extremely dangerous situation that will unfold in the canals of Venice. It is assumed that since Elise is gallivanting around Venice with Frank that he must be Pierce. This draws the attention of not only the British police, led by Inspector John Acheson (Paul Bettany), but also the mobster from whom Pierce stole billions of dollars.
Depp looks bored as Frank, probably the least challenging role he has ever taken on. The character lacks any depth and Depp’s performance borders on that of a first day table read. One can only assume that Depp wanted to work with von Donnersmarck badly enough to ignore the glaring deficiencies in the script.
Jolie is beautiful as the mystery woman but barely expresses any emotion at any point throughout the movie. She simply smiles and floats through the scenes, practically disappearing under her unnecessarily flamboyant wardrobe. Jolie has never been a particularly impressive actor and typically gets by on her looks alone. That has never been truer than in this role, where she doesn’t even attempt to create anything resembling a character.
As a relatively inexperienced director, von Donnersmarck is clearly not ready for huge Hollywood movies yet and so we can only hope that he returns to smaller, more intimate fare like his first film. He will no doubt make another great movie sometime in the future. Let’s just hope it’s good enough to make us forget The Tourist. | Matthew F. Newlin