Review – The Tourist (12a) [2010]

Star Rating: 3.5/5

When a guy generally sits on a train (or a bus or an aeroplane for that matter), he hopes and prays that a drop-dead gorgeous girl sits either next to or opposite him. Alas, this generally does not happen. Similarly, when two or more star actors combine for a film, the movie usually does not live up to its expectations. The Tourist is a casualty of this syndrome.

Nevertheless, Frank (Johnny Depp – Pirates of the Caribbean I, II, III & IV, Sweeney Todd, Alice In Wonderland), a single and simple maths teacher from Wisconsin, has a dream come true at the start of the film when the stunning Elise (Angelina Jolie – Salt, Wanted, Mr. & Mrs. Smith) sits opposite him on a train to Venice. Better still, she is interested in him. Unfortunately for Frank (if there is such a thing as ‘misfortune’ in this scenario), Elise is being followed by Scotland Yard and by Reginald Shaw (Steven Berkoff – A Clockwork Orange, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), a murderous mafia boss. Both parties are after her husband, Alexander. Elise intends to use Frank as a decoy, to dupe the authorities and Shaw into believing that Frank is her husband.

Depp and Jolie gazing at one another as they dance at a ball. When it comes to glamour, there is only one winner.

Frank has no idea about any of this. As Frank, Depp plays a very different character to the intense, weird roles that he has done in previous films. (Think the barber in Sweeney Todd or Willy Wonker in Charlie In The Chocolate Factory.) In The Tourist, Depp plays a bumbling fool, who is in shock that a woman as striking as Elise would want him. Frank is totally infatuated with Elise throughout the movie and Depp does well to constantly remind us of this without being cringe-worthy. Not only is he nervous and uncertain of himself around her; whenever Elise speaks of her husband, one sees a twinkle of crushing depression form in Frank’s eyes as well as a lump develop in his throat. As a result, one has nothing but empathy for Frank: there are few things more gut-wrenching than going out with a girl and having to listen to her talk about how much she loves someone else; especially if you fancy her.

However, as good as Depp is, Jolie outclasses him. As Elise, Jolie plays a cunning, strong-willed and intimidatingly beautiful, high-class woman. The way she dresses, walks and talks (the English accent, last heard when Jolie starred as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider, definitely adds to the appeal) make her the object of fascination throughout the film. That we are unsure for more or less the whole film whose side she’s on ensures she is an enigma. This is far from frustrating. Rather, this has the effect of increasing Elise’s/Jolie’s attractiveness several times over.

Depp and Jolie enjoying Venice's romantic charm as they take an evening boat ride.

Whilst Depp and Jolie play very well, the plot is nothing special and has holes in it that must be taken with a pinch of salt. Although the storyline is quite entertaining and full of twists (some of which are quite predictable); at times, particularly in the middle of the film, it can be a bit dull. If one were harsh, one could even go so far as to argue that it is not the storyline but the two main characters that keep the audience interested. That is never a good sign for a movie.

The choice of Venice for a location is a refreshing change. This film could easily have been shot in any of the over-used major cities in films (like London, New York, LA, Paris or Rome amongst many others). Yet, Venice has its unique allure, which is quite well captured throughout the film. The movie also reveals other not-so-wonderful aspects of Venice, and Italy in general, such as corruption within the police. But that is beside the point.

All in all, The Tourist is a tad disappointing. The actors and the charm of Venice undoubtedly make up for many of the shortfalls in the plot. Yet, even if the storyline has its flaws for much of the film, the ending is a different matter altogether. The ending is nothing short of brilliance and will leave one feeling very satisfied indeed.

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