13 December 2010

Go Somewhere Else- THE TOURIST Review

Writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnesmarck made his mark with 2007's The Lives of Others, which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. That was an arresting thriller that utterly gripped me from start to finish and had me thinking about it for days afterwards. So fuck knows why he followed it up with a limp and forgettable beautiful people vehicle like The Tourist.

Our beautiful people are Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, and their characters become entwined in the midst of a stock romantic crime thriller plot. Jolie is Elise, the wife of a British tax fugitive who's wanted by both Scotland Yard and some pissed off gangsters. None of his pursuers know what he looks like after intelligence suggests he's had facial reconstruction surgery. To give them a false trail, Elise finds Frank, played by Depp, on a train to Venice, and pretends he is her wanted hubby.

I like both Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie as actors more than for being attractive and all. Now here they are, together at last, and it's a total damp squib. You could say they're there for the salary insofar as their utter lack of romantic chemistry. The pairing of these beautiful people from inception to the finished film results in something akin to a gossip mag reader pushing together a Barbie and a Ken, to the film being the mind-numbing footage of their anatomically incorrect plastic crotches clacking together.

Jolie can just about pull off the criminal bride, with all of her glamour and whatnot, but it doesn't mean that we give a monkey's about her character. Also, after all the times spent complaining that no one ever notices that Jolie is gorgeous when she acts as an undercover agent in Salt, or as a bereaved mother in Changeling, The Tourist finally has every character stop and stare as she walks by, and it's even more annoying. This is to say nothing of Depp, whose acting specialty is grotesques for a reason. He can play a normal person no more than Tracy Morgan could play Adolf Hitler, and Frank never registers as the schlubby school teacher he's supposed to be.

The plot itself is goofy as all hell. Read the synopsis above and I bet if you put your thinking cap on, you can puzzle out the twist ending. I credit you with that much intelligence, but the filmmakers evidently do not. If you can figure it out from the most spoiler-free synopsis, imagine the catatonic state of compliance you'd have to be in to be surprised when you watch the actual film. Serial ranter and occasional Mega-Me Mark Kermode has described it best, when he compared it to the ending of an episode of Scooby Doo.

It's a film that is eminently more concerned with depicting the troubles of beautiful people in beautiful places, being beautiful, than it is in nailing down its own tone or bothering to keep its audience engaged. By turns, it's supposed to be both a mistaken identity thriller in the vein of Hitchcock and a screwball romance. I would err towards the latter in making this film, because there's some genuinely funny stuff when Depp's clueless tourist runs around desperately asking for help in Spanish despite being in Italy, but its straight-faced lobs at sexiness have all the expression and character of a blow-up doll.

As the script stands, there might be a marginally more interesting film made from The Tourist if the leads weren't specifically supposed to be the Sexiest People in the World. Maybe if Johnny Depp was replaced by Roy Cropper or Barry off Eastenders, and Angelina Jolie deferred to Susan Boyle or Rula Lenska. Not to say that any of these people are either ugly or more attractive than Depp or Jolie, but they at least have character. The Tourist is a shallow, obvious and unsympathetic muddle that's beneath the talents of almost everyone involved, with an OK! Magazine formula of casting that utterly fails to spark any romance or warmth.

The Tourist is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen The Tourist, why not share your comments below? If you're a fan of Timothy Dalton and Paul Bettany, they're in this one too- props for the latter for having the acting chops to look genuninely surprised at that bloody obvious final twist.

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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