by Mel Valentin
With mega-stars Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, a premise that borrows heavily (and obviously) from "To Catch a Thief," "North by Northwest" and "Charade" (among others), European cities popularly associated with romance (e.g., Paris, Venice), an Oscar-winning director, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck ("The Lives of Others"), an Oscar-winning screenwriter and an Oscar-nominated one (von Donnersmarck, Christopher McQuarrie, and Julian Fellowes), a sizable budget (large enough to include Jolie and Depp’s salaries), it’s hard to imagine a film better situated than "The Tourist "for quality, if superficial entertainment. Instead, moviegoers can look forward to a dull, tedious, unengaging effort.The Tourist opens in Paris as Elise Clifton-Ward (Jolie), a woman of means and mystery, walks across a city square to a sidewalk café. In a nod to von Donnersmarck’s Oscar-winning film, The Lives of Others, a surveillance drama set in Eastern Germany before the fall of the Soviet Union and the breakup of the Eastern bloc, several comically obvious, and thus, comically inept, unkempt French policemen, follow Elise from a surveillance truck while their team leader, Acheson (Paul Bettany), a Scotland Yard detective assigned to the Financial Fraud Division, micro-manages their every move from the discomfort of his office cubicle in London.
"A romantic thriller that's neither romantic nor thrilling."
Elise is at the café for more than an espresso or cappuccino. She’s waiting for word from her long-lost lover, Alexander Pierce, an investment banker turned white-collar fraudster. Pierce owes the British government 744 million pounds in back taxes. Due to expensive, extensive plastic surgery, Pierce can’t be easily identified, leaving Elise as the only connection to Pierce known to Acheson. A card delivered via courier instructs Elise to travel to Venice by train, find a patsy who resembles Pierce in build and appearance, romance him, and set him up for a fall.
She finds the fall guy in Frank Tupelo (Depp), a vacationing Midwesterner, math instructor, and spy novel enthusiast. Intrigued by Elise, Frank willingly gives himself to whatever adventure awaits, sans the expected clever, double entendre-heavy dialogue moviegoers have come to expect since Robert Donat met Madeline Carroll on a train in The Thirty-Nine Steps, Alfred Hitchcock’s early masterpiece of romance and intrigue, later surpassed by Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief and North by Northwest. Moviegoers, however, will wait in vain for anything approaching the quote-worthy dialogue found in Hitchcock’s films, a mystery given the involvement of McQuarrie and Fellowes.
Unfortunately, we can’t ask McQuarrie and Fellowes (the German born and raised bon Donnersmarck shares a co-writing credit) why The Tourist fails so badly at what should have been one of its strengths. The flat, functional dialogue is only one among several problems with The Tourist. With, possibly, the second to last scene as an exception, The Tourist unfolds predictably, taking Frank from a chaste night with Elise in a super-expensive hotel to a ploddingly paced rooftop chase scene involving Russian thugs sent by Ivan Demidov (Steven Berkoff), a Bond-inspired villain (minus the white cat, alas) eager to find Pierce and the $2.7 billion pounds Pierce stole from him. To further push the Bond-lite connection, cast two-time Bond actor Timothy Dalton in a supporting role as Acheson’s superior at Scotland Yard.In a scene that can serve as an example of everything that’s wrong with "The Tourist," Frank finds himself handcuffed to a railing aboard a motorboat. What could (and should) have been a tense, suspenseful scene is anything but: motorboats chase each other at 10-12 MPH (tops). Every other action scene (okay, the 1-2 not mentioned here, "The Tourist" is short on action) unfolds with the same lack of urgency. Add to that an undernourished, unconvincing romance between Elise and Frank, pregnant pause-heavy dialogue (the better for audiences to pick up on the nonexistent subtext), Deep surprisingly looking his worst (i.e., tired, hung over, badly photographed), unimaginative plotting, flaccid pacing, and the end result is a meandering, mediocre misfire, one unlikely to get Von Donnersmarck another high-profile, big-budget project (as it shouldn’t).
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originally posted: 12/11/10 04:00:00