In the heyday of Hollywood’s Studio Era, there was a simple elegance to moviemaking. When it was at its best, talented directors would be paired with gifted screenwriters and beautiful movie stars (who also happened to be decent actors) would be filmed in glorious, exotic locales.
Given these parameters, “The Tourist” is a throwback to this bygone era down to its very core.
The plot is elementary Hitchcock as Johnny Depp plays the classic role of the Wrong Man. He is Frank Tupelo, an American math teacher on vacation in Europe. On a train to Venice he meets Angelina Jolie, herself playing the classic role of the Mysterious Woman.
Her name is Elise and she is going to meet up with her great love, a fugitive embezzler named Vincent. Her every move is watched by INTERPOL so in order to throw them off her trail she takes up with Frank with the hopes of convincing those who are watching that he is the plastic-surgery-altered Vincent.
Naturally her ruse works and manages to dupe not only the police but the ruthless gangster (Stephen Berkoff) from whom Vincent stole an obscene amount of money.
The movie then takes off on a series of chases, captures and escapes as Frank tries to avoid being arrested or killed, all the while falling in love with the resourceful Elise.
When you boil the whole thing down, “The Tourist” is a silly little movie where the sum of the parts is much greater than that of the whole. That said, the various parts work so well together that it is easy to forgive the movie’s lapses in cohesion and plausibility.
German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (how that name doesn’t have an umlaut I’ll never know) knows that his primary job here is to shoot beautiful people doing beautiful things in beautiful places.
He also snagged a writing credit along with screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie (“The Usual Suspects”) who helps keep the screenplay light and the plot-twists from becoming too cumbersome.
“The Tourist” is also boosted by a fine supporting cast, including Paul Bettany as the dogged Scotland Yard agent intent on bringing Vincent to justice, and Timothy Dalton as his politically fixated boss.
But let’s not beat around the bush, you’re going to be plopping down American dollars to see this movie for two reasons and two reasons only, Depp and Jolie.
It’s nice to see Depp in a “normal” role where he’s not buried behind makeup or a crazy accent. He plays the everyman well and it is his restraint in the role that makes his performance fun to watch.
As for Jolie, (bold statement alert) she has never looked more stunningly beautiful in a movie. So often in movies we are supposed to suspend disbelief in regards to the attractiveness of an actress and believe she is a poverty-stricken working mother or a shunned misfit.
It’s almost a relief to see literally every person in the movie, including the extras she passes in the streets, reacting as if she is one of the most beautiful women in the world; which, you know, Jolie actually is.
Depp and Jolie’s chemistry isn’t exactly sizzling, but fortunately the script doesn’t really demand that we be floored by their deep, abiding love. Yet another old-fashioned convention “The Tourist” embraces.
This movie could have been released in 1946 starring Carey Grant and Grace Kelley and no one would have batted an eye.
I suppose how well received “The Tourist” is depends on how cynical modern audiences have become to this retro form of cinema. As for myself, I’m a total sucker for this stuff and gladly soaked in every frame.
“The Tourist” is rated PG-13 for violence and brief strong language.
▲ Mat DeKinder (firstname.lastname@example.org) was once described by a guy named Nate as “the Jackie Moon of film critics.” He appears courtesy of Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis.