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Sunday, March 13, 2011

THE TOURIST (2010) - REVIEW



Everyone thought Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp were the perfect on-screen match. A Hollywood pair-up made in celluloid heaven. Not me. I love Johnny Depp. I admire his ability to morph into any character with such ease that it's impossible to find two similar characters in his body of work. Jolie on the other hand has taken a lot of really bad acting decisions that almost derailed her career soon after her Oscar win for "Girl, Interrupted". In the past four or five years she's managed to salvage her reputation and earn a new batch of Oscar nominations. But by no means do I consider her a perfect match for Depp's talent, or the perfect romantic interest in a movie. I just don't.

The "tourist" the title mentions is Depp's character, Frank Tupelo, an american math teacher from Wisconsin, travelling to Venice, where he probably intends to spend a quiet holiday, which will not be the case, as you've probably already guessed. On the train he encounters Elise Clifton-Ward (Angelina Jolie), who seems to take quite an interest in the otherwise uninteresting teacher. The two engage in flirtatious dialogue for the rest of the trip. It would seem odd for a woman like her to flirt with a guy like him (ignoring the fact that he's Johnny freakin' Depp), but, we know something Frank doesn't. From the first minutes of the movie we learn Elise is being followed by an international task force under the supervision of Scotland Yard's Financial Crimes Division because of her romantic involvement with Alexander Pearce, a man who stole 2 billion dollars from a gangster and owes the British government 744 million pounds in taxes. Elise is merely using Frank to throw the authorities off her trail. This plan however attracts the attention of the scary evil rich dude that Pearce stole from, who immediately flies to Venice with a small contingent of equally scary evil henchmen. What follows is...incredibly boring.

I'll go no further with the plot, because I like to keep a shroud of mystery around any movie I review, no matter how badly I hated it. "Hate" might even be too strong a word for it. I think "indifference" is more like it. The movie left me cold and considering all the things it had going for it, it should have been near impossible to do so. I mean the cinematography is beautiful, the art direction flawless, the score lovely, the cast very talented, the director an Oscar winner for the foreign Film "The Lives of Others". So, where did hey go wrong ?

First of all, it's so lacking in thrills, it's almost scary. The action highlights of this vacation thriller are a short-lived rooftop chase and an extremely slow boat chase. The latter has a good excuse, because while filming they had to be careful not to damage the palazzi pillars, but still, they could have used some CGI or something, or, why not, drop the whole idea. There is a pretty good action scene, near the end, a suspenseful stand-off which results in a hail of bullets. Okay, maybe it's not the most exciting thing ever, but at the time I was so hungry for some excitement that I might have overreacted a bit. It's competently handled.

Second of all, the leads are so terribly misused that I felt sorry for them. Jolie spends most of the time just prancing around the frame throwing steel-melting sexy looks around and getting men to turn their heads. She also wears twelve different outfits throughout. She's a walking, talking fashion show. Depp is occasionaly fun as the bumbling math teacher chased around Venice and gets most laughs from a running gag which involves Frank replying in spanish to everyone, despite being in Italy. Just like any american tourist would, right ? Above all, the biggest problem is how mismatched Depp and Jolie are. They just don't generate that on-screen spark required to sell this kind of romantic setting. The only actor who seemed to enjoy himself was Paul Bettany as Inspector John Acheson, who joins the chase in Venice. In fact he's more fun to watch than Depp. Someone in casting should be fired.

In the end the most unforgivable thing the movie does is perform a horrible twist ending. It's so horrible, because we, the unsuspecting audience, have been deliberately deceived. You'll see what I mean when you'll watch the movie. The thing is, you might see the twist coming, but it just makes no sense. And the more you try to justify it, it gets worse. Twist endings like Shyamalan's in "The Sixth Sense" take pride in hiding clues in plain sight, so after the twist unfolds, you can rewind and catch up on all of them and slap yourself for not noticing. But not here. This movie doesn't hide any clues, it just forgets them altogether by bending reality. I have to say though, that about halfway in, I started to have my suspicions, not because I'm so terribly smart, but because the story was trying too hard to convince me of something, which usually means they're going the opposite way.

So there you have it. A tired script, mismatched leads, no excitement, tepid romance and an award-winning director working for a paycheck. A recipe for disaster. Apropos, "The Tourist" is a remake of french movie "Anthony Zimmer" starring Sophie Marceau and Yvan Attal. Maybe you'd be better off watching that instead.




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