Friday, July 29, 2011

Review: The Tourist (2010) TH

Fanciful events for a whimsical vacation

This is another movie that uses a bait and switch with its trailer. It's made out to be an action/thriller with a constant, heart-racing traction, though the actual tone plays out as a somewhat light hearted mystery with an element of humor and some romance that comes across as lackadaisical, never knowing which angle to stick with, which makes the general mood an emotionally confusing and conflicting experience for a viewer. It's a film where the music acts as another character--sometimes distracting, sometimes getting the job done--to do the talking over panned shots that capture the rustic scenery of Italy that "The Tourist" primarily takes place in.

A woman named Elise (Jolie) is related to an investigation by the Financial Crimes Division of the Scotland Yard and in turn is being followed by agents wherever she goes in Europe. She receives a letter from a past lover named Alexander Pearce who she hasn't seen for over two years due to laying low after stealing billions of dollars (or millions of British pounds) from a gangster named Reginald Shaw who deals in businesses of vice such as casinos and brothels. Pearce, who reportedly had plastic surgery, tells her to find a man that looks similar in build, as others don't know what his new face looks like, to use as a distraction so Elise and him can finally meet up again and take off. While on a train destined for Venice, she picks a tourist that catches her eye. Apart from being bashful, Frank Tupelo (Depp) is a math teacher from Wisconsin despite his odd accent who reads spy novels and is more brain than suave. He lost his wife to a car crash three years earlier and is looking to rekindle a relationship, and what better way to do that than with a stunning woman who compliments himself, as he's honest and reserved, and she's sophisticated yet confident.

The Yard realized the ruse from a quick background check and let the dogs off of Frank, yet Shaw hears that Frank might actually be Alexander from a tipster going on old information and still places a bounty on him. Shaw surrounds himself with Russian henchmen and with his wealth pays off a few people to get ahold of Frank. This leads to a few chases--one involves a roof top and another a boat--but the amount of action scenes in this film can be counted on one hand. Even so, the tone feels up and down and has its moments of plodding along as it shoots inconsequential scenes and scenarios while the characters don't always feel like a solid part of the framework. The shots of the scenery and the bombastic score over top seem like they're more imposing than the human interaction at times.

Jolie isn't stretching very far outside of her range, as she acts more as a staggering presence who's seductive and elegant, not to mention secretive, while giving subtle looks and gestures to maintain the enigma. For the most part Depp surprisingly plays it normal and held back. The police and lower gangsters, despite some well-known names such as Paul Bettany and Timothy Dalton, feel like they play their parts evenly with nothing extra to remember them by. Steven Berkoff gets a chance to shine somewhat by bringing some distinguishable and compelling elements to the role of Shaw. The movie has a final twist, though the problem is prior to that it wasn't able to maintain a firm command even if the viewer gets a little reward for the wait.

Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Lives of Others)
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, Timothy Dalton, Steven Berkoff
Website: IMDB