The Tourist review

Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie come together for The Tourist. But it's a film that's less than the sum of its parts. A lot, lot less, as it happens.

Small Spoiler Warning: we discuss the ending of the film in this review, although we don’t, of course, tell you what the ending is. Just wanted to put this warning here to be absolutely on the safe side.

Let’s get something straight first of all: The Tourist has absolutely no pretensions of being anything other than a big, pretty vehicle for its two huge, pretty stars. One thing you cannot accuse it of is a surplus of ambition.

For what it’s worth, here’s a brief summary of the plot. Average Joe, Frank (Johnny Depp), meets glamorous stranger, Elise (Angelina Jolie), on a train from Paris to Venice. After a flirtatious dinner, he thinks that he’s seen the last of her, but on arrival in Venice they keep bumping back into each other, and soon they find themselves on the run both from Russian gangsters and the police.

The plot of The Tourist is, to put it kindly, an afterthought, an awkward necessity which is just there as a way to bring two of the most bankable stars of the modern era together at last.

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The classic movie star vehicle is a rarity now, as there are very few genuine movie stars in the classic tradition (uniquely striking, magnetically charismatic and utterly demanding of your attention at all time). But Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp are certainly two of the few actors left who fit into that bracket.

For The Tourist to succeed, therefore, it depends almost entirely on their performances and their on-screen chemistry as a couple. So, here’s the rub: they’re both terrible.

Let’s start with Jolie. Watching her eerily float around the film dead-eyed and bolt upright, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the beehived Martian Girl who invades the White House in Mars Attacks!. Jolie’s weirdly stiff, perpendicular gait is probably borne out of not wanting to scuff up any of the many exquisitely fitted designer dresses that she models in nigh on every scene. 

Similarly, she remains almost completely expressionless throughout the entire film, presumably because cracking a smile or displaying any form of recognisable human emotion would risk disturbing the meticulously applied eye shadow and lipstick that adorns her constantly, even when she’s in the middle of a late night speedboat rescue. It’s hard not to feel sometimes that you’ve been tricked into watching an incredibly self-indulgent, ninety minute L’Oreal advert.

On top of that, it inexplicably feels as if the film is desperate to convince you that Angelina Jolie is a really sexy woman, a point that I wasn’t aware needed reiterating to anyone on the planet with eyes, and I certainly don’t think it needed to be sledgehammered home with the frequency and intensity that it is in this film.

The Tourist fetishises Jolie to a ludicrous degree. There is shot after shot of stunned men left staring and drooling in her wake as she wheels past awkwardly, like the world’s sexiest shopping trolley. I got so fed up with these incessant reaction shots that, to amuse myself, I began to imagine that the reason the men were staring was due to an errant length of bog roll left hanging out the back of her tights.

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It’s clear throughout that Jolie is concentrating mainly on her clothes, her hair, her make-up, and her accent. Injecting any sort of charisma, pathos or empathy into the role is clearly way, way down on her agenda.

Johnny Depp, on the other hand, is playing a schlubby maths teacher, so he doesn’t share Jolie’s problem of attending to a demanding wardrobe and make-up set up in every scene. There is one problem with his role, though, namely that Johnny Depp is playing a schlubby maths teacher.

If alarm bells don’t start ringing in your head when you read that, then I want to visit your school, because my maths teachers mostly resembled either vicars or, occasionally, ex-convicts.  If you’re going to cast Johnny Depp as an average Joe, why not just have done with it and cast Steve Buscemi as Superman, and we’ll all ride the stupid train further into Moronland together.

Immediately, then, you don’t buy into his character, and he is made even more irritating by the tics in Depp’s performance. His idea of acting ‘average’ or ‘normal’ is to mumble all of his lines and look permanently constipated. It’s comfortably the most boring performance I’ve ever seen from Depp, but it’s not hard to see why he took the role. “A couple of months in Venice with Angelina Jolie, eh? Kissing scenes, you say? Can I have lots of money as well? I can? I’ll see if I’m free.”

I guess I’m being cynical, but this is a very cynical film we’re talking about. Needless to say, when these two weird performances rub up against one another it hardly sets the screen alight, and when one of them declares their love for the other late on in the film (it’s not really a spoiler, is it?) it’s outright laughable, such has been the utter paucity of chemistry between them up to that point.

The dialogue is consistently laboured and groan-worthy, and the plot, what little there is of it, is utterly, totally forgettable. I saw it a matter of hours ago, and I’m genuinely struggling to recall what happened in the middle third of the film.

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What you will remember, however, is one of the dumbest twists I’ve seen in a film for a very long time, and what’s more, I figured it out literally within the first ten minutes. Now, I’m not one of those people who claim to have figured out The Sixth Sense halfway through the opening credits, but,  a) this film is demonstrably not The Sixth Sense, and b) the twist is so forehead-slappingly stupid and obvious that I spent the whole film hoping that I was wrong, but sure enough, I wasn’t. It is unbelievably stupid in ways that I can’t even begin to describe. And why does this film even need a twist? It’s hardly Fight Club.  I promise you that even the people who will like The Tourist will have no desire to ever want to watch it again.

Steven Berkoff and Timothy Dalton show up to make things moderately entertaining for a few minutes, but by then the damage has been done.

The real tragedy is that the film was directed by the talented  Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, who directed the excellent The Lives Of Others, a taut suspense drama that could not be more removed from the airy idiocy of The Tourist. It’s a sad indictment of American cinema that he chose to make this film as his first foray into Hollywood, and he joins a number of talented directors (Alexandre Aja, Gavin Hood), who have made utter dreck once they’ve made it over to the States.

The Tourist is not an offensively bad film, but it is, at points, a laughably bad one. If you’re desperate to see it, then I’d recommend hunting down a copy of Mars Attacks! on DVD for a few quid. You’ll get much the same effect, really, only with the added bonuses of exploding alien heads, cows being set on fire and  a Tom Jones cameo. Which I think we can all agree would have improved The Tourist immeasurably. 

Follow Paul Martinovic on Twitter @paulmartinovic.

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1 out of 5