- Rated PG-13
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All photos © Sony Pictures
Reviewed by David Medsker
here is a scene in “The Tourist” where the villain watches two of his henchmen playing poker. He notices one of them acting a little too happy when raising the pot, tells the other, “That’s his tell. Go all in,” and of course is dead right. The movie itself suffers a similar problem. It tries to be as mysterious as its leading lady, but gives itself away via a series of tells. Had they worked on their poker face, this could have been something special.
The movie begins with French police tailing Elise (Angelina Jolie) in the hopes that she will lead them to the whereabouts of Alexander Pearce, a person of interest to Interpol agent Acheson (Paul Bettany). Elise eludes their surveillance, but not before receiving a note from Alexander instructing her to board a train to Venice and find someone with Pearce’s height and build to dupe the coppers into thinking is Pearce, who’s recently undergone plastic surgery and left the authorities with no idea what he looks like. She settles on Frank Tupelo (Johnny Depp), a math teacher traveling alone who’s more than happy to let Elise hijack his plans. Until, that is, a gangster named Shaw, from whom the real Pearce stole a truckload of money, catches word that Pearce has been spotted. Run, Johnny, run!
If there is any question why Angelina Jolie is an international superstar, the first five minutes of “The Tourist” answers it. Whatever you might think of her acting (she’s merely fine here, though she handles the English accent rather well), she pops off the screen like no actress alive. And when the movie has nothing to do but shoot Jolie looking fabulous, it succeeds with flying colors. Then that pesky story gets in the way, and before we know it, we’re watching Depp pull a Jack Sparrow across a rooftop, or the slowest boat chase in movie history.
Mostly, though, we’re watching a cat-and-mouse movie that lumbers from one trap to the next. Christopher McQuarrie helped out with the screenplay, and considering his work on “The Usual Suspects,” it’s surprising to see him play his hand so clumsily. There are at least two bits that are supposed to be ‘gotcha’ moments, but neither of them is as shocking as the filmmakers would like to believe. Depp is in the odd position of having to be overlooked for the most part, and in that regard he succeeds. Bettany is supposed to drive the movie as the dogged lawman, but then Timothy Dalton waltzes in for two scenes and positively wipes the floor with him. In the end, though, the acting in these types of movies doesn’t matter if the story isn’t working, and while the plot isn’t exactly flawed, it isn’t well constructed, either.
It’s nice to see a movie resurrect the playful banter – clean banter, too, save for two swear words by Bettany, each of which sticks out like a sore thumb – that was standard procedure in the ‘50s. It fits the material, since “The Tourist” strives to be a modern-day “To Catch a Thief.” A better idea, though, would have been to address the foundation of the house (story), rather than the window dressing (dialogue, star power). This movie could have worked, given different priorities.
Single-Disc DVD Review:
The amount of extras contained on the DVD for "The Tourist" is understandably small given its less than stellar box office performance, but what they provide is still entertaining. Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck contributes and audio commentary, and there are two featurettes on making an traditional glamorous movie and the preparation that went into the big gala scene in the movie's third act. There is also a rather cool alternate animated title sequence, as well as a silly 87-second series of clips of Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie and Paul Bettany laughing during takes.