When it comes to Hollywood movie stars of today they just doesn’t get any bigger than Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp. They are two of the most recognisable actors in the world who can pick and choose their roles as they fancy and name their price while they’re at it. In simple terms, they are a couple of the only bankable movie stars.
It might come as a surprise to most movie fans, then, that Jolie and Depp have never starred in a film together. Surely that can’t be right, you say. It’s true, quick, go and look it up on IMDB… Okay, now that you’re back, it really is a feat in and of itself that two of Hollywood’s biggest A-listers have yet to share screen time.
That is until The Tourist (a remake of the 2005 film Anthony Zimmer), Hollywood’s latest attempt to bring the fun and sleek caper movies of the ’40s and ’50s to today’s audiences. Surely it must be something to write home about considering Jolie and Depp have chosen it as their first film together. But sadly it isn’t, feeling like just an excuse to shove these two huge name actors together… at last.
The plot is almost as ridiculous and over the top as this year’s other big Jolie vehicle, the stupendously stupid but nevertheless fun Salt. Jolie plays a woman who is being spied on by Scotland Yard – led by the ever-dependable Paul Bettany—in the hopes that she will make contact with the mysterious and elusive Alexander Pierce who, for some reason, owes them exactly £740 million. The trouble is they inexplicably don’t know what he looks like (he may have had plastic surgery to change how he looks)— enter Depp as the bewildered Frank, who gets thrown into the middle of Jolie’s mess simply because she talked to him on the train.
What proceeds is all rather overly complicated but nevertheless generic stuff involving gangsters also wanting their money back from Pierce and hunting down Frank as if it’s the last thing they’re ever going to do. We’ve seen this sort of things a thousand times before and unfortunately The Tourist does little to makes itself stand out from the crowd.
Perhaps the point of the story isn’t the overly complex plot, often cheesy dialogue (“He won’t be duelling tonight” is just many of the out-of-place one liners peppered throughout) and the disappointing set pieces but rather the stunning locations, enjoyably fluffy tone and, of course, the beautiful movie stars at the forefront. And while there are pleasures to be had while watching The Tourist—it’s another one of those “turn your brain off and you’ll enjoy it” kind of movies—there is also a tremendous sense that it all could have been so much better.
The trouble with much of the onus being on Jolie and Depp to carry the film is that there has to be great chemistry between them. You’d think actors of their calibres would hit it off well on-screen, so to speak, but as it turns out they haven’t got very much chemistry at all. It may seem strange that this is their first film together but maybe there’s a reason for that—they don’t fit well as a pair on-screen. They never really connect, their flirting awkward rather than charming and their growing relationship throughout the film never really convincing. Jolie’s off-base English accent doesn’t help believability of her character at all and half the time Depp seems like he’s in a different movie.
It may have seemed like a good idea to pair these two together on paper but in the end it just makes it hard to believe in their characters, something highly unusual for both of them. Jolie and especially Depp are known for disappearing into their characters in a whole wide range of movies, whether that be Depp in Ed Wood or Charlie & the Chocolate Factory or Jolie in Changeling or A Mighty Heart. But the fact that they’re a couple of the biggest names in Hollywood makes you only see Jolie and Depp when you’re watching The Tourist, not Elise and Frank. Although there’s an argument to be made that that was entirely the point.
With a film like this the plot is always set up for (often unnecessary) twists and turns at every point. The Tourist has plenty of that, with one twist coming along and before you have time to take everything in along comes another to throw you off track once again. It’s part refreshing – to be kept on your toes like that—and part exhausting. The inevitable big twist at the end is as silly and obvious as you might expect; you can literally work it out within the first 10 minutes. That may be down to modern day audiences being savvy to the types of twists Hollywood movies throw at us – in a sense past twists have created mass expectations of a twist at the end of all movies – but it also may be down to poor plotting (disappointingly Christopher McQuarrie, writer of the brilliantly complex The Usual Suspects, co-wrote the script). Dangle the carrot too close to the rabbit and he’ll be able to reach it all too easily (did I just make up a saying?).
The film comes courtesy of director Florian Henckel von Dommersmarck, writer and director of the 2007 Best Foreign Language Film winner The Lives of Others. He easily could have continued down that ultra-serious road with his next film but hats off to him for taking such an abrupt 180 turn and making something as light as this. At least he’s flexed his glossy, sleek, star-studded muscles.
In the end, though, The Tourist is certainly not the worst film in the world or even the worst either Jolie or Depp have ever done (contrary to some other, harsher, reviews out there). It’s enjoyable enough, throwaway entertainment that ticks enough of the right boxes to equal a decent times at the movies. But look past the surface, even taking a little peek, and the faults start to show. Maybe it’s best not to.
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