Theatrical Review: THE TOURIST

J.C. De Leon

by: J.C. De Leon
December 9th, 2010

Rating: 2.5/5

Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Writer: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (screenplay), Christopher McQuarrie (screenplay), Julian Fellowes (screenplay), Jérôme Salle (original motion picture, ANTHONY ZIMMER)
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, Steven Berkoff
Studio: Columbia Pictures

Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie have been huge box office draws in the past, and this holiday season should not dissuade that fact, as the stars are paired for the very time in THE TOURIST. However, the troubled project that is the film ends up being a disappointment to sit through, despite an interesting story and its beautiful cast. Before making its way to the screen, the project went through four directorial changes, along with having a screenplay rewritten from one original film by three different writers. It should be no surprise that this creates a finished product that more resembles a tangled mess than a complete film.

The story begins in France, where a surveillance van begins tailing Elise Ward (Angelina Jolie). We gradually learn that she has been followed for weeks by an agency running an investigation headed up by Agent Acheson (Paul Bettany) searching for a man named Alexander Pearce. A mail courier delivers a letter written by Pearce to Ward instructing her to board a train to Venice and search for a man with the same height and build as him to throw off the people who are following her. Once on the train she meets Frank Tupelo (Johnny Depp), and they begin their journey together. Elise's beauty and allure are obviously intimidating for Frank as he clumsily follows her lead as if he were entranced by her beauty (and frankly, who wouldn't be?). Sure enough, things go according to plan, and a gangster named Ivan Demidov (Steven Berkoff) takes the bait. We soon learn that Demidov has had two billion dollars stolen from him by Pearce (which is also why Acheson is on the hunt for him), and thus the case of mistaken identity puts Frank in a number of troubled situations.

The story isn't where any of the flaws of THE TOURIST emerge, it is its incompleteness that leads to a frustrating movie-watching experience. This project was originally set to be directed by Lasse Hallström, who ended up leaving over scheduling conflicts. Bharat Nalluri was the next director who attempted to complete the project, but left after more difficulties. When Angelina Jolie came on, so did Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, but he left over "creative differences,"  along with Sam Worthington (who was originally cast as Frank Tupelo). Eventually, Henckel von Donnersmarck ended up completing the film.

One can only assume that with all of the shuffling of directors and writers, it made for a confusing working environment for the actors, the result of which is a bunch of "phoned in" performances. While it is interesting to finally see Johnny Depp in a movie where he's not a strange Tim Burton character or Jack Sparrow, this movie will make you question whether or not he should ever play just a normal guy again. That being said, he does put forth the best performance in THE TOURIST, but he has to have more in the acting tank when it comes to playing an average Joe. Angelina Jolie's performance seems to have mirrored most of her recent action movie characters of the past few years. There's some of the badassness of her character in WANTED, mixed with the smarts of her character in SALT, packaged in the utter beauty of Jane Smith from MR. AND MRS. SMITH. But overall, nothing new is brought to the table, and thankfully she had those past characters to pull inspiration from since clearly there was none that came from innovative direction.

Ultimately, this won't be the worst time a viewer will have in theaters. Sadly though, the average moviegoer may make the decision to see this movie because of the cast, and they may miss out on some of the other quality holiday movies out there such as BLACK SWAN or TRUE GRIT. Depp and Jolie fans may not be disappointed in finally seeing these two on screen together, but overall don't be dissuaded too much by the lackluster performances. There's definitely some chemistry between the two, and hopefully they can collaborate again in the future on a complete film helmed by an experienced director and/or writer.

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