It almost seems like a no brainer to pair Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, two of the hottest celebrities around right now, in terms of star power and good looks, together. Jolie is one of the most gorgeous women on the face of the planet and has the talent to back it up and the ladies all swoon over Depp, who also turns in a good performance each and every outing. That is why it’s such a shame they are stuck together in The Tourist, a movie that should have been so much more. It’s still stupid fun, but the first half of that description is what disappoints the most.
As the movie begins, we watch as a British agency led by Inspector Acheson (Paul Bettany) tails Elise (Jolie), who is linked to a mysterious man named Alexander Pearce, a fugitive criminal that they are trying to track down. However, nobody knows what he looks or sounds like, so they are hoping she will lead them to him. As she sits down for a coffee one morning, she receives a letter from Pearce that tells her to board a soon-to-be-leaving train. When she is on, she is to find a man with his shape and size and make the British police force believe he is Pearce. She finds that man in Frank Tupelo (Depp), an American tourist.
With that beginning, one might assume that the movie is on a fast track to absurd action and ridiculous scenarios, almost like Knight and Day only with the gender roles reversed, but that isn’t the case. There is some action, but it isn’t the main attraction. The reason to see The Tourist is to watch Jolie and Depp play opposite each other. They both are magnificent and produce some of the best chemistry we’ve seen all year.
Being an espionage thriller, The Tourist is a tad confusing. At one point, Elise apologizes to Frank for bringing him into all this, but I wasn’t quite sure what “this” was exactly. It’s all explained by the end, but there’s a serious lack of context throughout the majority of the movie. It’s like the filmmakers were so happy to have Depp and Jolie onboard that they forgot to make sense of what they were doing.
At the same time, however, it’s believable. Aside from one early usage of a technology that I’m not sure exists, this is more realistic than Salt, the aforementioned Knight and Day or any other similar espionage thriller to be released this year. Of course, it’s all still preposterous and requires your suspension of disbelief, but I was willing to grant it that and it worked for me. At least until the end rolled around and packed a final twist that was so outlandish it took that suspension of disbelief and vaporized it.
But that isn’t enough to destroy The Tourist. Sure, the screenplay is all over the place and the action scenes leave a lot to be desired—director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (who I mention only because his name is awesome) stages them poorly and doesn’t have the finesse to make them exciting—but the performances are great and there are some hearty laughs, particularly from Depp who has some fun with tourist stereotypes and speaks Spanish despite being in Italian locales.
This is a movie that knows what it wants to be. As the British agency follows Jolie in the very first scene, one of the camera operators zooms in on her butt. His boss, not amused, tells him to “be professional.” As soon as this line is said, Donnersmarck cuts to his own close-up of Jolie’s curvaceous backside. Right here, he’s telling us to sit back, relax and not think too hard. He’s not trying to impress us with flash. He’s just trying to give us some silly fun. And I found myself entertained, so I guess he achieved his goal.
The Tourist receives 3/5