The Tourist, directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, was released in 2010 to decidedly mixed reviews. Most critics panned it, and the box office reception wasn’t a whole lot better; on RottenTomatoes, it’s sitting at 20% for critics and 43% for the general audience. Yet it was nominated for three Golden Globes — best actor and actress in a comedy or musical and best comedy or musical — and both of the stars, Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp won Teen Choice awards for action stars. (Not that the Teen Choice Awards are a paragon of taste, mind you.)
I didn’t know most of those details when I sat down to watch the film, but I had heard a lot of mixed reviews about it. So I wasn’t at all sure on what to expect.
Government agent, or a guy who’s about to get slapped? Or both?
Jolie plays Elise, a woman involved with a mysterious thief who has stolen millions from an organized crime leader. Elise is trying to get back in touch with him, but she is being tailed by government agents as well as the mob boss. As a decoy, she finds someone who looks vaguely similar to her former lover: Frank Tupelo (Depp), a widower from America who has come to Venice to get some solace. When Elise sets her sights on him, he thinks he’s found a chance at love again, and quickly finds himself in over his head and wondering why all these people are shooting at him.
For a film with only a few principal characters, there is no shortage of name actors involved. Jolie and Depp have most of the screen time, but Timothy Dalton and Paul Bettany both get in their fair share as two of the government agents in charge of apprehending Elise and her associate. Steven Berkoff, who I am somewhat less familiar with but who has had roles in several major films (Beverly Hills Cop and A Clockwork Orange among others), plays the organized crime leader who has been robbed of his unjustly earned fortune. The supporting cast is great, even if they don’t get a lot of time between them, and some more interaction between Bettany and Dalton would probably have helped the film a bit.
We’re sorry, sir, but if you’re wearing a suit like ours you have to come with us.
Johnny Depp is amusing as Frank bungles his way through escapes and tries to figure out what he’s gotten himself into. And Angelina Jolie is believable as the femme fatale, although the characterization is rather thin on anything else. We don’t get a strong sense of attraction between the two characters, though the film tries to convey one. We see them stick their necks out for each other, but there’s not much of a sense as to why they’re doing so other than that the plot says so.
If the characterization is short on substance, it is just as much the case for the film itself. It’s kind of comedic, kind of an action movie, but doesn’t delve into either side enough to really sell it as being either of those genres, let alone both. There are some amusing moments, largely from Johnny Depp who is purposefully at his least suave here, but otherwise there isn’t much in the way of comedy here. There are a couple action sequences, but not enough to call it an action movie. There’s more time spent on having various characters stare at Angelina Jolie whenever she enters a room. She’s certainly quite stare-able, but they oversell it.
And yet, for all it’s faults, I find myself liking the movie. It’s completely ephemeral, and I’m sure by this time next month I won’t remember watching it, but I was entertained when it was on. I’m not entirely certain why, since it doesn’t excel at any one element enough to actually praise it at that. It’s just a fun piece of fluff. But there are certainly worse things to be.