Friday, December 10, 2010

The Tourist

I haven't seen Jérôme Salle's Anthony Zimmer, the original French film on which this American version is loosely based. What I can tell is The Tourist is the kind of enjoyable summer flick you don't usually find in the midst of family holiday flicks and more dramatic Oscar fare.

Johnny Depp stars as American tourist Frank Tupelo who just happens to be in the wrong place at the right time when the lovely Elise (Angelina Jolie) sits down next to him on the way to Venice.

Unfortunately for the math teacher, this mysterious woman isn't so much caught up by his charms as she is using him as a stand-in for the man she loves. On instructions from the mysterious Alexander Pearce, Elise chooses a man on the train the same height and build of her former lover in order to throw suspicion away from the thief who is evading both police (Paul Bettany, Timothy Dalton, Alessio BoniGiovanni Guidelli) and the mobster (Steven Berkoff) from who he's stolen millions.

The Tourist has a few things going for it. For one it's got two strong stars who work well together surrounded by a charming supporting cast, especially Dalton in his small role. It's so refreshing to see Depp play a role that requires him to be awkward, unsure, and out of his depth. Jolie is well-cast as the beautiful but aloof woman whose real emotions even she isn't quite sure of. Here's a woman Frank would immediately fall for, and here's the kind of guy Elise could fall for without even realizing it. A little cliché? Perhaps, but its played out well enough.

It also doesn't hurt that the movie takes these two beautiful people and plops them down in one of the world's most romantic cities - Venice. Aside from being a great backdrop, writer/director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck maximizes the use of the city's winding walkways and waterways to accentuate the film's chase sequences through tunnels, canals, and even over rooftops.

That's not to say the film doesn't have it's share of problems. The byzantine script keeps the characters, and the audience, on their toes, but it does take a least one twist too many. There are two big reveals in the film's final act. The first pushes the story in a slightly new direction just as the story begins to get stale. It works well-enough, but the second, last-minute, turn of events (the one you'll see coming but hope isn't going to play out) is much harder to swallow. That it doesn't completely ruin the film is a credit to its stars, but in retrospect it does unnecessarily create several plot issues.

The Tourist is a fun time which in slightly better hands could have been even more. Even if it stumbles a bit, not unlike Depp's character, it does have quite a bit of charm, grace, and at times is very entertaining.

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