Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Written by Christopher McQuarrie and Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
For all intents and purposes, the end of the year is known as “Oscar Season.” During this period, filmmakers are busily crunching their deadlines in hopes for a shot at the covenant Academy Awards. As opposed to the insubstantially-meaningful, action-packed, populous-catered season of the summer blockbuster, Oscar Season is notorious for films that attempt to fill that void. They hold substance and morale, they inspire us and make us think. Dramas, underdog stories, uprising independent films, all cluster this month with gems film buffs melt for. It’s a time where we see a survival story of a free-spirited man getting his hand stuck between a boulder, facing the choice of amputation and death (127 Hours). It’s a time where we see an obsessed ballerina crossing the boundaries of professionalism and being neurotic (Black Swan). So, when is the right time to release a film about a tourist who is brought into a world of espionage? Truth be told, the answer is not now. More fitting as a mindless, mediocre summer blockbuster, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s vision of a paranoid spy thriller is neither Oscar worthy nor at all thrilling.
The Tourist follows the love interest (Angelina Jolie) of a high profile thief who has committed grand larceny against a very dangerous gangster. For his protection, she allures an ordinary tourist (Johnny Depp) to pass as her partner, only to jeopardize his life as he falls deeply in love with her. While that may recall Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, the film is far from being suspenseful, and is nothing we haven’t seen before, especially when it comes to the acting. Depp and Jolie lack chemistry and look as though they are acting in separate films. For Jolie, The Tourist is yet another chance to highlight her physicality (as in Salt and Wanted) above all else. Shots of her walking down the street, close-ups of her face when reading a letter, and tight zooms of a knife pressed against her lips, fabricate the film into a centerfold still more than a gripping motion picture. We get it, she is attractive, let’s move on.
As far as Depp goes, it was nice seeing him play it straight again, but he’s not quite yet comfortanble in his own skin, nor is he right to play a straightforward action hero. After a run of character pieces, it seems as though Depp is slipping back into familiar territory. When slurring drunkenly, a bit of Jack Sparrow comes onto picture. When tip toeing through the Mediterranean rooftops of Venice, a bit of the Mad Hatter teetering on top of a tea party table appears on screen. As much as it was intriguing to see Depp out of costume, by the end of the film, you’ll want him to put the top hat back on, and have it stay on.
Playing more as a comedy than a thriller at certain points, equipped with Spanish flubs and Depp’s nervous malarkey, the film gains more chuckles then gasps, and rightfully so. The action, on the other hand, is consistently dull and doesn’t lead to anything of importance. Set in the watery streets of Venice, much of the action relies on speedboat chases reminiscent of a Disney MGM theme park attraction. Nevertheless. the pacing is choppy and the film tends to drag.
Above all, the film’s greatest flaw is its lack of faith in viewers. The Tourist is quite predictable and tends to pacify the audience with expository dialogue. Despite being funny at times, The Tourist, takes itself so seriously as an action thriller that the overly straightforward plot becomes too cumbersome and somewhat insulting. From the use of unrealistic technology to the last line in its script, the film plays no games in laying everything out for the audience. Perhaps we should just make like tourists ourselves, and bypass the trash for other, more adventurous cinematic marvels.