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Friday, 10 December 2010 01:00

"The Tourist" visits Venice, flirting with disaster

"The Tourist" visits Venice, flirting with disaster
Written by Diane Carson
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About this Media...

  • Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
  • Dates: Opens December 10, 2010

Writer/director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck made one of the most compelling, brilliant films with The Lives of Others. In 2007 it won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. Now with The Tourist he shows he can masterfully direct contemporary, albeit inconsequential cloak-and-dagger plots as well as he did in his incisive condemnation of the East German Stasi.

In addition to von Donnersmarck, The Tourist can also proudly boast contributions from co-writer Christopher McQuarrie, of The Usual Suspects fame, who has a knack for clever dialogue. To deliver his witty repartee are a couple actors who know their way around a set: Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp. A great cinematographer, John Seale, shot the film. His credits include Rain Man, The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. So the scenes sparkle.

But none of the previous credits for all these stars in front of and behind the camera matter if The Tourist fails to entertain playfully as well as dramatically, since we arrive expecting appealing, even thrilling spectacle, along with some chemistry. Truth be told, there are a few very slow scenes but sufficient intrigue and energy to engage Depp/Jolie fans.

The story mines familiar terrain, and is, in fact, a remake of the 2005 French Anthony Zimmer. It also owes a debt to Hitchcock's North by Northwest, with the mistaken identity confusion on full display. Here, the tourist of the title, Frank Tupelo (Depp), is traveling to Italy after the death of his wife, as we quickly learn. Elise Clifton-Ward (Jolie) accidentally on purpose meets him on a train to Venice. He's a Madison, Wisconsin, community college math teacher; she's—well, he and we are not quite sure, but several mean-spirited groups of men pursue her in hopes of meeting her long absent lover, wanted multi-million dollar thief, a mysterious Mr. Pearce. As they say, complications will, of course, develop.

The camera feasts in lingering close-ups on Jolie's features and her considerable photographic appeal. Depp delivers an appealingly offbeat, humorous performance, controlled and yet engaging. Everyone is in on and enjoys the joke. Yes, The Tourist is merely escapist and entirely lightweight fare, but it's well made, well acted, well written and, therefore, a pleasing diversion, a shiny holiday present. At area cinemas.

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