The Tourist promised to be an exciting combination of stunning venitian settings, headline stars and thrilling chases. Angelina Jolie plays the mysterious Elise, under surveillance from both Interpol and a shady group of gangsters. It becomes clear that she is somehow involved with a multi-million pound thief named Alexander Pearce, who instructs her to board a particular train and find someone of his height and build to be seen with. She soon meets maths teacher Frank (Johnny Depp) and uses him as an unwitting pawn in her mission. Being a simple tourist from Wisconsin, he is out of his depth in the stylish, fast-moving world inhabited by Elise, and when the pair arrive in Venice, Frank is mistaken for Pearce, and finds himself under attack from all sides. Menacing underworld types, flustered Interpol agents and corrupt local police converge on Frank, who finds himself on the run with Elise, unsure of who to trust.
The cast are clearly having fun on their roles, with Jolie in the sort of role she is perfect for, a classic femme fatale who pouts and flutters her way into Depp’s life. Depp is the highlight here, and it is refreshing to see him cast off the one-liners and caricatured performances with which he is in danger of becoming typecast, for a more subtle depiction of an everyman caught up in a situation way over his head. He is beliveable and likeable as Frank, the many little visual cues he gives us really give us a feel for the character – as he fumbles to open a window, or stuggles with awkward conversation we really do become attached to him as he stumbles his way through the dangerous world of espionage. The scenes between Depp and Jolie could be seen to be a little one-note, but the pair do share some entertaining exchanges which will raise a few laughs. The support cast also throws up some real treats, with Paul Bettany making a convincingly flustered detective on Jolie’s trail, Steven Berkoff a menacing gangster and the always entertaining Timothy Dalton appearing as Bettany’s boss.
Venice makes for an excellent setting for this kind of story, with the twisting canals and colourful locals forming a good basis for chases and action sequences. The sensational locales are aided by expensive speedboats, suits and restaurants to give off the visual vibe of a Bond film. The action sequences are solid, although there are surprisingly few of them. A highlight is a chase through the canals in two speedboats bound together by rope which manages to maintain exitement and tempo for the audience. The other main action scene is a rooftop chase, but sadly the chief effect of these sequences are to leave the viewer hungry for more.
The Tourist unfortunately seems to be unsure of itself, veering awkwardly between a taut thriller and a spy spoof – perhaps the best example being the opening scene in which Jolie is staked out by French authorities. The tempo and visuals of the scene suggest a serious tone, whilst a confusingly comedic score plays over the background as the comically incompetent police fail to apprehend their target again and again. This continues through much of the film, with the elegant settings and fairly well developed plot being permeated by some baffling pratfalls and ill-judged comedy relief – often in the middle of key scenes.
Where The Tourist succeeds most, though, is in these comedy moments. The audience will certainly laugh in all the right places, which feature Depp at the centre of most of them – cornered in his hotel room, his call to the help desk is sure to raise a few laughs, as are the exchanges between Frank and the Italian police chief attempting to comprehend his story. Sadly, these moments are not quite enough to raise the film above a by-the-numbers medocrity which is certainly entertaining, just not the exceptional film the cast deserves.