The Tourist
Columbia/Tri-Star // PG-13 // $28.95 // March 22, 2011
Review by Casey Burchby | posted April 10, 2011
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Graphical Version

The Tourist is beautifully shot by the accomplished Oscar-winner John Seale. It captures classically romantic locations like Paris and Venice with a visual caress lacking in Hollywood productions for some time. The look of the film reminds us not so much of the gritty Bourne series as much as David Lean's Summertime and Stanley Donen's Charade. Unfortunately, the comparisons end there. As much as The Tourist attempts to capture not just the look but the tone of those and other jet-setting comic thrillers of the past, it fails to generate tension or laughs. In fact, the picture is just another big-budget dud of the type we have come to expect from studio tent pole projects these days.

The freakish Angelina Jolie - who I'm certain will later be remembered as a sort of female Victor Mature, with her exaggerated, artificial good looks - plays Elise Ward, a mysterious Englishwoman being pursued by a number of international police agencies, all of whom are hoping she will lead them to the shadowy master criminal Alexander Pearce. On a train to Venice, she selects Frank (Johnny Depp) as a decoy for Pearce, and takes him along on her jaunt across Europe. A series of twists and turns allow the leads to have some fun with power-play reversals - and then all of a sudden we're supposed to believe that romance is blooming between the two. The rest of the film is a leaden chase, stunted by the leads coming off as virtual ciphers with no emotional lives or explicit goals.

The Tourist is a big mess with high production values. The fact that it is visually successful proves that the film was better-prepared than the shoddy, misshapen script would suggest. It had to have been thoroughly storyboarded. Yet the script, credited to director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck as well as Oscar-winners Christopher McQuarrie and Julian Fellowes (and based on the well-reviewed but little-seen French film Anthony Zimmer from 2005), tries too hard to capture a classy retro mood and scenario rather than reaching for a clear notion of its leading characters. And even that fussed-over scenario lacks credibility. An early scene in which a Scotland Yard investigator pieces together bits of a note Ward had burned to a crisp is handled with a ridiculous observational straightforwardness, instead of being the comical take on spycraft it could have been. Whether or not the technology exists, its portrayal lacks all plausibility. Also, it's worth pointing out that the chief reason Pearce is being pursued by so many different agencies is because he owes the British government back taxes!

Jolie is like a Jordan almond. You may think this nice-looking candy treat is going to be sweet and delicious, but it turns out to be a weird idea that's just plain bland. Depp continues his pursuit of projects that provide overexposure without the balancing benefit of furthering his range of characterizations - or utilizing his talent at all, for that matter. Both actors are charisma-free in The Tourist. The movie's lush production values, in addition to allowing DP Seale to capture some of the most iconic vistas in Europe, afford an engaging score by James Newton Howard. In all other respects, The Tourist is a shamefully expensive wreck of a movie.


Image and Sound
Sony's DVD looks good in a solid enhanced widescreen transfer that honors the movie's chief selling point: its photography. Colors are bold and contrast is strong. Very minor compression details are occasionally present. The 5.1 surround track boasts a good dynamic range but not many noticeable surround effects. As a technical experience, this DVD is generally strong.

Bonus Content
There are a few extra features on this DVD. First is a feature-length commentary (in English) by director Donnersmarck. A Gala Affair (7:14) goes behind the scenes for one of the film's more elaborate sequences, set (and shot) in La Scuola Della Misericordia in Venice. Bringing Glamour Back (9:09) documents the shared delusion among the cast and grew that a glamorous image allows a film to stand on its own and contains inherent merit. Alternate Animated Title Sequence (2:15) show us an unused version of the closing titles. Outtake Reel (1:27) consists not of bloopers but of junket interview outtakes.

Final Thoughts

A lovely bore, The Tourist is one of the many studio productions of late that desperately throw money at an underdeveloped concept in order to rush it to market. This hastily-prepared film does not care one iota about its characters, although Rufus Sewell and Timothy Dalton do manage to evince some personality in their small roles. If you yearn for the sophisticated thrillers of yesteryear, I'd seek something out on Netflix's streaming service. Skip it.

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