Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck follows up The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) with a breezy caper through Venice starring a couple of eminently watchable stars, Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp. Depp plays Frank Tupelo, the tourist in question, who’s marked as a fall guy by sultry Elise Clifton-Ward, under orders from her lover and international criminal, Alexander Pierce. What follows is a case of mistaken identity as crooks and cops alike chase Frank through Venice.
I have read in interviews with von Donnersmarck that he wanted to follow up The Lives of Others with something a little more glossy and fun, and he has succeeded to a limited extent. The Tourist is obviously attempting to mimic the most accessible works of Hitchcock, with an innocent man on the run in the company of a beautiful and seductive woman (think North By Northwest or The 39 Steps), but this film never reaches such glorious heights. Part of the problem is that Jolie and Depp, whilst wonderful actors who work together well, never manage to spark off each other quite the way they should. Frank has his comedic moments, but is too thoughtful to really let loose, whilst Elise is busy being mysterious and aloof to enjoy herself. This means that neither of them speaks as much as they should, and the first half of the film can only rely on telling glances between the two for charisma.
Also, the film has surprisingly few chase sequences. The ones that do feature (and make good use of Venice’s rooftops and canals) show potential but never succeed in escalating the tension- this is perhaps something that von Donnersmarck hasn’t had much experience directing. There are a couple of moments that betray the fact that this film has American studio interests at heart – firstly, we need a title to explain that we’re in Paris, France (you know, just in case those footpath cafes with people eating baguettes were actually in Texas), and secondly, the reading of a letter gets a corresponding voice over – twice (you know, just in case the audience forgot what happened ONLY FIVE MINUTES EARLIER).
It’s a pity that Jolie’s mainstream films of late haven’t really flexed her acting muscles – she either gets to play hardcore action chick or classy sexy chick. It’s the latter in The Tourist, and it seems that no one’s interested in her repeating the level of skill she displayed in her Oscar-winning performance in 1999’s Girl, Interrupted. Such is the downside of making the big time, I guess – you’re no longer allowed to be a character actor. Depp is good, as always, though this would have to be one of his least interesting performances.
The Tourist (actually a remake of the French film Anthony Zimmer, though they hide this fact in the end credits) succeeds in being debonaire, lightweight fun, but never takes us anywhere particularly grand, excepting perhaps the excellent climactic scene. Despite all this, it is a film that might provide more on a second viewing, but I’m certainly not in a hurry to give it such a chance.Rating: