The spy thriller craze is nothing new. And even this year, both of Angelina Jolie’s starring roles have been as agents in spy related films. After Salt earlier this summer, Jolie returns in the US remake of a 2005 French film called The Tourist, playing Elise Ward, a woman who is instructed by her partner to find a stranger on a train that resembles him and make the international authorities tracking her believe that the stranger is him. Johnny Depp stars as the unlikely victim of Jolie’s plotting and the film follows the mistaken identity story from there.
Earlier this summer, another spy thriller that teamed two big actors was Knight and Day, an action/romance/comedy hybrid that brought good laughs and great thrills through a very lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek way. The Tourist takes itself much, much more seriously as Depp and Jolie play their parts pretty straight. Depp not only looks a lot like his Pirates of the Caribbean Jack Sparrow character with the goatee and longer hair, but he occasionally seems to slip into a few of the iconic character’s mannerisms. But ultimately, Depp’s role as math teacher-on-holiday Frank Tupelo is more of your average joe than he’s used to playing. For the casual moviegoer, The Tourist delivers the promised entertainment, but it’s done in a rather dry way and paced almost too slowly. The pacing is more on par with similar films from the days of film gone by, like Hitchcock’s era or even before. But for today’s audiences looking for a faster-paced story and more action, The Tourist will bore more than anything.
Angelina Jolie is good as the mysterious and sexy Elise Ward, but she does her best to remain hard to read. And Depp’s Frank is clearly intrigued by her. Still, when it comes to the romantic elements, when it’s revealed that there’s a growing attraction between the two, it may be obvious as to why Frank would be attracted to Elise, but it’s not so much as to why Elise would return the affection. Depp is also good in his respective role, but considering the fact that his character is supposed to be pretty plain and laid back, his charm is dulled more than the film needs him to offer. The movie’s finale gives Depp a few minutes to shine, but it may come a bit too late. Paul Bettany is always reliable as an intense actor and his portrayal as Inspector John Acheson may be the most passionate and intense of the bunch… which isn’t necessarily a good thing. And since both Jolie and Depp are known for being great actors in other films, one must assume the problems can be blamed on the film’s direction (from Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck) and the script.
Still, despite its flaws, The Tourist doesn’t feel like a complete loss. Depp and Jolie fans will probably enjoy watching the two pair up on screen for the first time. It’s a good match, one that could have been better but is still enjoyable. While the feel of the film and the type of chemistry the actors share in such a situation and setting can be comparable to a film like Charade or To Catch A Thief, the problem is that the dialog isn’t witty or interesting enough and the acting just isn’t as colorful. Watching the conversations between Elise and Frank on the train and seeing them unfold rather casually, reminds me of much better train encounter sequences in other films, namely between Bond and Vesper in Casino Royale or Roger and Eve in North By Northwest. Still, director Donnersmarck still keeps the viewer on their toes as the film draws to its conclusion – an ending that will surprise some, but not all. In the end, it’s an enjoyable movie, but those who have seen better know that The Tourist could have been a lot more.
The content for the film, like everything else in it, is pretty light. However, there are two “F” words (one uttered in the beginning by Bettany and another quite oddly by Depp) and two “S” words, with a use of “a–h*le,” “Oh my G-d,” “Oh, G-d,” and five uses of “h*ll.” Surprisingly enough, that’s the extent of the language. There may have been some uttered in Russian or Italian, but it was tough to tell. Aside from that, we see a brief kiss as well as a passionate kiss during a dream sequence, and some brief violence during a boat chase, a rooftop chase, when a mafia boss strangles one of his men to death, and when some bad guys are gunned down. Otherwise, The Tourist may be one of the more tame PG-13 films of this genre you’ll see all year (especially taking into consideration Jolie’s previous film Salt which was pretty ridiculously violent).
The Tourist is one of those movies that may leave you with mixed feelings by the time the credits roll. I found myself thoroughly enjoying the almost-two-hour escapist entertainment, but upon further pondering the film, I realize just how flawed it really is. Its great cast and beautiful scenery in Venice, Italy make it a fun watch, but those expecting something extraordinary will curse their ticket purchase. If classic spy films that are light on action and story are of interest to you, the film is worth checking out. For everyone else… ever hear of Redbox?