December 12, 2010

Movie Review: The Tourist (2010)

thetourist1_largeThis is a movie that I really wanted to like. The sad thing is that I actually did for a good part of it's running time. Then the hammer dropped in the third act and I think I must have been dazed for a little while as I did not fully realize it at first. Then the dawning came and I sat there dumbfounded, hoping that what I was watching unfold was not what it looked like. There had to be another twist coming, right? They really weren't going to do what it looked like they were doing, were they? Yes, yes they did. That third act pretty much tanked the movie and essentially ruined what I liked heading into that final act.

The Tourist has a creative team with quite the pedigree. It was co-written and directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (whose The Lives of Others won the Best Foreign Language Oscar) and co-written by two other Oscar winners Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) and Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park). Not to mention a cast that features Oscar nominee Johnny Depp, Oscar winner Angelina Jolie, plus Paul Bettany, Timothy Dalton, and Rufus Sewell.

Earlier this year the screens were graced with movies that evoked memories of the past. This came in the form of exploitation-style outings Piranha 3D and Machete. Now we have a movie that aims a little further back in time but fails to be as successful. The Tourist looks to bring an old school noir to the big screen with modern sensibilities.


Well, they got the perfect casting, a great setting, and a director who has an idea of what to do. Where it falls apart is in the reveal. Now, I do not mind a movie jerking me around before pulling the rug out from under me with a big climactic reveal. The problem is that this big twist (or whatever you prefer to call it) needs to be careful not to invalidate what came before it, or at the very least not call into question prior events. In the case of The Tourist, the reveal throws so much off kilter and is, frankly, very annoying and went a long way towards ruining the overall experience.

The story is pretty simple and straightforward. Angelina Jolie is Elise, a mysterious woman who receives secretive notes with instructions on how she can be reunited with her thieving boyfriend, all while under the noses of Paul Bettany and Scotland Yard. This leads to her getting on a train and randomly picking Johnny Depp's "That's a terrible name" Frank. The goal, for her, is to make the police believe that Frank is the mysterious thief, Alexander Pearce. So, the duo are in Italy, pursued by Scotland Yard and the gangster Pearce stole the money from, with Pearce remaining a total mystery.


If this was the 1950's you would likely see Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in the lead roles. The movie plays up the romantic look of the European locations, uses high fashion, and does not seem to resemble reality. I am cool with that. It has a rich fantasy feel and there is deliberate pacing, and a flow that feels rather old school.

I found a lot to like in the attempt to recreate the past in the present. Jolie does a fine job playing the mysterious woman on the train. Depp's performance is a little more curious, I like it, but he never acts all that surprised at what is going on. This is offset by his enjoyment of mystery novels, so I guess he loves the real world setup he has found himself in (to a point, that is). The rest of the cast is underused, particularly Paul Bettany. Another curiosity that crops up is Rufus Sewell's role, think about what he is doing.

Bottomline. The Tourist is two thirds of a good movie, however, that last third and some details throughout derail it. It is ultimately a disappointing experience. In the hands of another writer/director and this could have been a really entertaining film. Such a shame.

Not Recommended.

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Nard4Reynard said...

The plot is unpredictable. My mom can predict it precisely, but I don't believe it. In the end, it's perfectly match with my mom's deduction.

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