Much like a travel brochure which promises the most amazing holiday, The Tourist looked as though it could be the perfect cinema escape this summer. Sadly, Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck's film, set for the most part in a sumptuously shot Venice, proves to be all pretty pictures with no lasting memories.
And surprisingly, the fault lies mostly with the film's leads, Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp. She, looking as beautiful as ever, and he, refreshingly playing his straightest role in quite some time, have next to no chemistry at all: Mr and Mrs Smith they are not. The pair meet on a train when Elise (Jolie), attempting to elude the British (not so) secret service, sits down next to Frank Tupelo (Depp), holidaying American math teacher.
He's to be the decoy, as instructed in a note to Elise by her lover and wanted fugitive, Alexander Pearce, to throw others off her tail. Pearce stole several millions from a gangster and has been in hiding for two years, believed to have had reconstructive surgery on his face. Elise is the only link to Pearce, whom the gangster, Reginald Shaw (Steven Berkoff), wants for obvious reasons but whom the Brits, led by a dogged inspector (Paul Bettany), seem to want only for unpaid taxes on said stolen loot. So far, so bored.
This past week, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association nominated The Tourist for a Golden Globe for Best Picture Comedy/Musical which means the members of the HFPA had a lot more fun with it than I did. And I'm not sure that Donnersmarck intended The Tourist as a comedy, despite its light tone; more a thriller in keeping with Hitchcock's lighter moments, perhaps?
But there's certainly no sense of urgency or danger in The Tourist, even with rooftop chases, gunfire and Russian mobsters. And a boat chase along the canals of Venice couldn't be less dramatic if filmed using a couple of row boats on a duck pond.
The teaming of Jolie and Pitt was probably considered a marketing slam dunk. Throw in Venice as a backdrop and audiences were most likely expected to be too hypnotised by all that beauty to care much for plot or character. Wrong. While I've no doubt The Tourist will do well at the Christmas Oz box office (How could it not? It has little in the way of high-powered competition), I also suspect it will come to be remembered more as a trip endured rather than a journey enjoyed.