Monday, December 20, 2010

Movie with Abe: The Tourist

The Tourist
Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Released December 10, 2010

“The Tourist,” the American remake of the 2005 French film “Anthony Zimmer,” is the brainchild of three Oscar-winning screenwriters. All three won their Oscars for original work, and therefore their choice to adapt an existing work together is especially interesting. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, who also directs, won the Best Foreign Language Film award for “The Lives of Others” in 2006. Julian Fellowes penned the screenplay to Robert Altman’s who-cares-whodunnit 2001 ensemble comedy “Gosford Park.” Christopher McQuarrie’s signature achievement is the 1995 classic thriller “The Usual Suspects.” One would expect a film from these three talented men to be especially clever and intelligent.

Yet that’s not quite the case. International superstars Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp are thrown into a web of intrigue and slow-paced action that has a team of British agents following a woman with a connection to a mysterious and unknown thief. Both Jolie and Depp stick out like sore thumbs, Jolie because of her beauty (and the way she uses it to her advantage) and Depp because of the baffled, out-of-place look stamped onto his face. They’re a peculiar pair, and what’s even more puzzling is why Depp’s Frank Tupelo so willingly goes along with everything Jolie’s Elise Ward tells him to do think and do.

That’s one of the extreme liberties taken by this film all too frequently: presuming that its wild plot is nothing out of the ordinary for its characters. After an energetic start that establishes the film as little more than successfully entertaining, the film devolves considerably as it becomes distracted by a dogged investigator obsessed with finding his elusive target at any cost, a cartoonish gangster and his hoodlums on the same trail, and a rather hard-to-believe twist that comes midway through the film. At its start, “The Tourist” appears to be the most multilingual film since last year’s “Inglourious Basterds.” That doesn’t last long, however, as the characters utter a line or two of their native dialogue before immediately switching to the more user-friendly English.

That’s only one of the disappointments in this film, one that should have been far smarter and more polished. All of the effort spent of polish was devoted to making Jolie look good and Depp look confused, rather than elevating a lackluster piece of entertainment into something like the great films of which all three scribes have demonstrated themselves capable. The film’s ending provides a hint of possible brilliance, but, like all that leads up to it, it takes too much for granted and assumes that the audience will buy its plot developments, no matter how ridiculous or unsupportable. No one is putting in their best efforts here, and a December release with this kind of talent behind it should be much stronger.


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