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The Tourist

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Still from The Tourist
It's not as if two A-List stars like Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie couldn't afford a holiday in Venice, but it seems like the only possible reason they signed up for this caper. For Depp especially, the role of 'The Tourist' who strays into the path of a beautiful secret agent is curiously bland. Of course, he brings a certain casual charm to the proceedings and Jolie never has to try very hard to look gorgeously imperious, but that's partly the problem. This so-called thriller feels just a little too laidback.

It doesn't help that you never really know what is going on behind Jolie's goggling blue eyes, though as the mysterious Elise, she uses this to her advantage - drawing dishevelled maths teacher Frank Tupelo (Depp) into a web of intrigue. They meet on board a train from Paris to Venice where Frank hopes to find healing after the death of his wife, but in truth, he is just as much of an enigma as the woman sitting opposite. Still, it doesn't take a psychologist to figure out why he accepts her invitation to stay the night.

Alas, the champagne is the only thing that really fizzes between them. As if sensing this, Depp plays up the halting shock and awe of being in her presence and only starts to move quickly when she leaves the next morning (no funny business having ensued) and gets a hail of bullets for a wake-up call. Cue the bit where he runs across rooftops in pyjamas - just for fun - with flailing arms vaguely reminiscent of Captain Jack Sparrow. Anyone else might be put out by this lack of etiquette on the morning after, but Frank still gravitates towards the femme fatale.

Elise knowingly puts him in danger (despite protestations to the contrary) and yet we're supposed to believe these two are falling in love. A sharp-tongued Paul Bettany threatens to drive a wedge between them as her wrangler Acheson, while Steven Berkoff does his sneering villain routine as the disgruntled mob psycho on the trail of one Alexander Pearce. He's the thieving criminal Elise claims to love (as well as Frank!) and covers for by using Frank as a decoy. In all, it's a rickety plot that should only take up half-an-hour of screen time, before the real story kicks in. Thankfully, Depp keeps his tongue in cheek and makes the most of witty one-liners.

Such breeziness marks a big change of pace for German helmer Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck who directed the fantastically brooding thriller The Lives Of Others (an Oscar winner in 2007). Both stories deal in espionage, but are very different in tone. While the action moves very quickly in this case (speedboats race across the canals and people get shot at), actually, nothing much seems to happen. That's because very little is revealed about the true nature of these impulsive lovers in what seems to be a deliberate ploy by Donnersmarck to protect the final twist. Overall, it's a self-conscious attempt at a Hollywood caper with the mix of comedy, romance and conspiracy watered down to the point where you can see straight through it.


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