The Tourist: Beautiful People, Glamorous Lives, No Chemistry


The Tourist (Sony)

A cosmopolitan, romantic espionage thriller that channels North by Northwest by way of Charade, with Johnny Depp in the Cary Grant role and Angelina Jolie as the cool, elegant and effortlessly glamorous femme fatale, and an Oscar-winning director getting his first taste of a Hollywood budget. It all seemed like the elements of a perfect big-screen confection. An American everyman (Depp) is picked out of a crowd by the most beautiful woman on screen, followed by police and foreign agents (led by a ruthlessly obsessive Paul Bettany), targeted by international gangsters (under the command of vaguely Russian baddie Steven Berkoff) and batted around by opportunistic Italian cops. And yet somehow this lavish light thriller stumbles through the set pieces and bobbles the star chemistry.

Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Lives of Others), who adapted the screenplay (based on the French film Anthony Zimmer) with Christopher McQuarrie and Julian Fellowes (or maybe he just did the last rewrites in a long-gestating development process), makes Venice look like the most gorgeous city on Earth and shoots Jolie with the same admiring, idealizing perspective, but has no facility for light comedy, romantic sizzle or breathtaking action. And the script, while cagey in its contrivances, is neither as clever nor intelligent as the filmmakers believe it to be. For all of its Hitchcockian “wrong man” echoes and play with identity and morality, there is ultimately no real risk, no sacrifice, no weight to any of it.

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Author: seanax

I write the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website ( I'm a contributing writer for Turner Classic Movies Online, Keyframe, Independent Lens, and Cinephiled, and the editor of Parallax View ( I've written for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Weekly,, Senses of Cinema, Asian Cult Cinema, and Psychotronic Video, among other publications, and I am a contributing editor to Parallax View. I currently live and work in Seattle, Washington, with my two cats, Hammet and Chandler.

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