I wasn't expecting much from The Tourist. Everything I had read by critics had been negative. But I was pleasantly surprised by this clever crime caper.
The beautiful Elise (Angelina Jolie) receives a letter from her lover, saying that it is dangerous for them to meet. So he has given her instructions on how to distract the police from identifying him. The police have been following her for two years waiting for Elise to contact her lover – a man who has embezzled over $2 billion. Elise is to allow herself to be tailed, hop on a train, pick a man of similar height and build, and sit down acting in such a way that the police will believe that it is him. While the police are distracted by all this, Elise will be able to be contacted by him. So Elise follows the instructions and the random man, of course, is Frank (Johnny Depp), who has recently lost his wife and who is overwhelmed by a random beautiful woman taking an interest in him. He soon discovers that he has become part of a cat-and-mouse game where his life is in danger.
Jolie and Depp are great in their roles. Jolie is consistently in control of the situation and clearly enjoys playing this game. Depp conveys a mixture of depression/sadness at the loss of his life, a willingness to go along with the bizarre events – he has nothing to lose – in a delightfully nuanced performance.
The plot is intriguing with a nicely revealed surprise at its climax. The story moves along at a good pace with some great scenery as we travel to Venice where most of the events occur. Venice is wonderfully portrayed and its waterways are used to great effect for some tense chases.
In my opinion, the critics who have come down hard on The Tourist, in particular criticising the chemistry between Jolie and Depp, have missed the obvious point that the relationship between them has been constructed for reasons other than romance. Frank is being used. Elise is in love with another man. If the chemistry had sparked a typical Hollywood romance it would have undermined one of the essential premises for the story happening in the first place.
The Tourist is not one of the best movies of the year. But it is good, clean entertainment with some subtle humour, good characters, and a decent story. It’s an old-style, Hitchcockian-flavoured, sumptuously photographed, espionage mystery. Check it out for a very pleasant couple of hours at the movies.
'If Elise and Frank are opaque to each other, they're opaque for a reason, as, sadly, lovers sometimes are. (Come to think of it, this picture has more in common with "The Lives of Others" than you might expect.)' – Stephanie Zacharek/Movieline
'In a year of craptaculars, The Tourist deserves burial at the bottom of the 2010 dung heap. It offers talented people trapped in creative inertia. A microscope and a search party could not discover any trace of chemistry between Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie.' – Peter Travers/Rolling Stone
AUS: M (infrequent coarse language and violence) – now showing
USA: PG-13 (violence and brief language) – now showing