Directed by: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Written by: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Christopher McQuarrie, & Julian Fellowes (screenplay)
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, and Timothy Dalton
Slicing through the frame with vintage glamor and movie star sensibility, Angelina Jolie always captures the gaze of her audience. Whether she be in a feature film like this one or in Africa with her family, we follow her.
In Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, we follow a man who’s been mistaken for someone else on a cross-country journey of suspense with swerving trains, diving planes, and classic automobiles. Cary Grant, as big a movie star as there ever was, plays that man. Here it’s Johnny Depp, but you can’t help but keep your eyes on Ms. Jolie.
The Tourist draws on the basic concept of that Hitchcock classic, takes it to Venice, and lets the pretty scenery and the prettier people do most of the work. Depp plays Frank Tupelo, laughably passed off as a math teacher from Wisconsin who is on vacation. He becomes entangled in international intrigue after meeting Elise (Jolie), who sits by him on a train and lures him to her luxury hotel room.
The chill you feel between them is engaging at first, but even as the characters “fall in love,” it remains. Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Oscar winner for The Lives of Others, paints finely garnished pictures on the screen and fuses them together, but inside them there isn’t much going on but posing. It feels like a Vanity Fair photo shoot stretched out into a movie.
The mob and the cops pursue the movie stars through the Venetian canals and rooftops, looking to recover some stolen money from the man they think Frank is. This is a city ripe for action scene potential, and there is one here involving Elise rescuing Frank by towing the boat he’s handcuffed to with one of her own. A chase ensues, and it’s well done. The problem is, nothing ever really feels at stake.
Posing is not exactly a skill Mr. Depp is used to. He plays a common man in The Tourist, no flamboyant quirks or character depth at all. He and Ms. Jolie are both quite brilliant performers, but here only their names are required for the marquee. Though it’s nowhere near a disaster, it’s largely forgettable. I’m sure Jolie and Depp have already forgotten they were in it.