Friday, December 10, 2010

The Tourist: Searching for Mr. Wrong

The movie opens with all these guys following Angelina Jolie around with cameras, scrutinizing her every move, so you could be forgiven for wondering if you’re watching a documentary. But no, this is Paris, Jolie speaks with an English accent, she receives an envelope with cryptic instructions, and we get about 40 different camera angles just to cover a half-minute of action—and if those clues don’t assure you that we’re in the realm of pure hokum, the deliriously fussy, overbearing, almost instantly annoying James Newton Howard score will. The director is Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, who helmed
The Lives of Others. Like that earlier film, this one is heavy on surveillance. Consequence, not so much.

You could shave off the first 15 minutes of
The Tourist and just start the thing with Jolie’s expensively tailored mystery vixen approaching Johnny Depp on a train, since he is, I think, our protagonist, or at least steals every scene from Jolie. She’s given precious little to do aside from look gorgeously worried; Depp, bearded and slightly husky-looking, at least gets to be funny and bumblingly charming. He’s terrific in their early exchanges. If only he and everyone else didn’t have to speak so many of their thoughts aloud. Redundancies accumulate, the bloat becoming near-palpable by the movie’s mid-point. I haven’t seen Anthony Zimmer, the French film The Tourist is based on, but if nothing else the original was at least shorter.

So Jolie uses Depp, a Wisconsin schoolteacher meandering through Europe on holiday, to mislead British fuzz and some nasty thugs led by a billionaire Steven Berkoff. The heavies all want to track down Jolie’s ex-lover to collect some six-figure debts—could Depp be that rascal in disguise?
The Tourist is a Wrong Man movie, playing like Polanski Lite or neo-Hitchcock, with its doubles, snarling villains and chase scenes through the lovelier canals of Venice. If I sound grumpy it’s only because the movie had every reason to be fun, if forgettable. Unfortunately it’s far too dumb to generate suspense, and the deeply predictable “unpredictable” ending is wildly nonsensical. The movie also fails to offer us a single truly compelling character, one we can believe in, even on the story’s own flimsy terms. Jolie’s character wears this medallion on a bracelet that features the two heads of Janus. She says her mom gave it to her to remind her that everyone has two distinct faces. But after watching The Tourist, two sounds luxurious. Me, I would have settled for one.

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