As I was glancing through the newspaper showtimes today I realized that I had left a film out of my holiday capsule reviews. Since adding another section to my last post would make it horrendously large, I figured I'd just set this one apart. As such, I am here yet again to rectify the situation.
Johnny Depp has made a career out of playing eccentric characters (Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Pirates of the Carribean) and even when he plays "normal" there's still seems to remain a hint of strange in the neurosis that he fabricates for his roles, like the fantasy-creating J.M Barrie or the tortured and titular Gilbert Grape. In "The Tourist" we see Depp giving his best shot at an everyman -- in this case a community college math teacher named Frank on holiday in Europe.
The film opens with Elise (Angelina Jolie) under heavy surveillance by some unnamed yet understood police authority. She receives a communiqué which sends the fuzz atwitter and they proceed to scamper around as she evades them and slips onto a train bound for venice. The note tells her to choose a man and pose as though her were the note-sender which she promptly does in the form of the anxious, electronic cigarrette smoking Frank.
Arriving in Venice Elise whisks Frank away to her posh hotel accomodations and makes sure to plant a kiss on him in full view of the surveilance, thrusting Frank into a game of cat and mouse running from both the law and underworld gangsters. Paul Bettany plays the obligatory police chief who wills stop at nothing to find his man and a handful of secondary character fill up the chorus, including a rather dejected-looking Rufus Sewell who does offers one line of diologue after posing mysteriously for about 6 total minutes of screentime. Apparently his career isn't blasting off at the moment.
For most of the film, Tourist is merely entertaining. The plot itself is nothing spectacular but it is enough to allow you enjoy all the pretty scenery and wonder, casually, if everything will work out in the end. Jolie is absolutely boring in her flat portrayal of the elusive Elise, torn by loyalty and love and doing little more than striking the pouted pose that made Jolie famous. Depp is fun to watch if only because his character is so average it seems unusual.
The strongest point of Tourist, however, is how french director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck doesn't rely on cheap flashy tricks to save his characters from peril. In the movies most drawn out chase seen, Depp runs barefoot in his pajamas across venetian roofs, slowly and awkwardly as I suspect any of us might do if we were woken by men with large guns. He doesn't jump over treachorous gaps, dodging bullets, setting of explosions and parkour-ing to safety. He mostly ambles around like, well, a dumb american in over his head.
And, while most of the plot offers little by way of mind-bending surprise, von Donnersmarck does have a trick or two up his sleeve that manage to elevate the film out of what would be an otherwise uneventfull demise. B-