The Tourist * *

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Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.
Screenplay: Julian Fellowes, Christopher McQuarrie, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.
Starring: Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Paul Bettany, Steven Berkoff, Rufus Sewell, Timothy Dalton, Christian De Sica.

If an English language ‘thriller’ directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, (the same man that done the superb Academy award winning German film “The Lives of Others”) appeals to you, then just hold your horses. This is not in the same style at all. This has a more lighthearted playful approach and a far cry from the tense and dramatic style he employed in his earlier directorial debut.

Elise (Angelina Jolie), girlfriend of international fugitive Alexander Pearce, picks up tourist Frank Tupelo (Johnny Depp) on a train from Paris to Venice. The plan is to persuade the police that Frank is Pierce with a new face, but the dupe also becomes a target for a murderous Russian gangster (Steven Berkoff).

This is an old fashioned thriller in a similiar vein as we are used to seeing Cary Grant in. It’s flamboyant, it’s lavishly shot in exquisite European locations and boasts our modern day Hollywood glam in the likes of Depp and Jolie. In short, it has everything to keep the movie-going public happy. So, why doesn’t it work? Well, for one, it’s a classic case of all style and no substance. Or maybe it’s, too many cooks spoil the broth… considering it has screenwriters Julian Fellowes “Gosford Park” and Christopher McQuarrie “The Usual Suspects” involved in the writing duties as well as the numerous people attached to it at one time or another – Tom Cruise and Charlize Theron were involved, as was Lasse Hallstrom for directing. Maybe this is why the whole thing is unsure of it’s itself and can’t quite decided on it tone. It’s a shame really, as I found myself enjoying it to begin with. Depp plays it just off-kilter enough to add some humour to the proceedings. Jolie adds the right amount of mystery that’s perfectly suited to her character and the art-direction and cinematography are vibrant and wonderful to look at. As the film goes on though, it gets less humourous, more incongruous and as a result ends rather ridiculously.

Grand in it’s scale yet very light in it’s content. It didn’t know whether it wanted to be a thriller or a romantic-comedy. It attempted both but succeeded at neither.

Mark Walker

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