January 26, 2011


Florian Henckel von Donnersmark's follow-up to his incredibly well received The Lives of Others has come in for a fair amount of critical flak (just see Ricky Gervais' opening monologue from the Golden Globes). It's an interesting choice of film for the director: from a sombre, Academy Award winning film set in Communist East Berlin to a Hollywood produced Venice set caper starring Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp. And while it may not be entirely successful, it's nowhere near as bad as everyone seems to be making out.

Johnny Depp is hapless math professor Frank; he's the kind of man who enjoys a good ole' trashy airport thriller novel and who is looking for an escape from his ordinary life. Angelina Jolie is Elise, the beautiful, glamorous woman who saunters into his train carriage and offers him adventure. She's under constant surveillance by Her Majesty's Bobbies in the Financial Crimes Division - her boyfriend is Alexander Pearce, a notorious criminal in hiding (he nicked a stack of cash from a gangster - but he's only being chased for non-payment of tax). She has to make the coppers believe Mr. Depp is, in fact, said crim. Which is all complicated by her growing attraction to him and the arrival in Venice of the gangster what Pearce nicked the dosh from.

The film so wants to be like a fun, breezy Hollywood caper film of the old-school; like something that may have once starred Cary Grant. That seems to be the general vibe everyone is going for, albeit with Depp as more of an "every-man" character than Grant usually played. But there's the rub: Johnny Depp is an actor who has made a career of playing the odd-ball and it's somewhat strange to try and buy him as anything but. I guess, here, he is the down-to-earth-oddball? Not really one, not really the other. Which kind of sums the movie up, really (not necessarily a bad thing).

Ultimately, I don't know that I've got all that much to say about The Tourist. There's some pretty people, some pretty locales with some nice set-pieces and that's really about it. The film isn't trying to be anything more or less than that, but I don't know that it fully succeeds with it's sense of fun. Sure, it is actually a bit of fun, especially if you enjoy watching Depp and Jolie, but I don't think it is as light, as effortless or as joyous as it really could have been. 

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