The Tourist conclusively proves that Angelina Jolie is one of the most beautiful women ever to have walked the planet, but although you can stare at her face forever, that alone does not a movie make. She plays the enigmatic Elise, who lives in Paris and is being shadowed by a Scotland Yard detective (Paul Bettany) who is waiting for her to lead him to her elusive lover, who is wanted for stealing millions of dollars.
For more than half of the movie, The Tourist, which eventually switches locale to Venice, Elise remains a riddle, her elegant demeanor and pleasant smile obviously harboring a secret. In his English-language debut, German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (who previously made the astonishing The Lives of Others), photographs Jolie better than any previous filmmaker — you can’t help but wonder what Hitchcock, whose creativity was often fueled by his leading ladies, would have done with her — and her looks are even incorporated into the story. When she walks down the aisle of a commuter train, every man who gazes up does a double-take.
One of the passengers, an American vacationer named Frank (Johnny Depp), catches her attention. He is smitten; she leads him on, then suddenly dumps him and disappears. The plot of The Tourist, written by von Donnersmarck, the esteemed Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) and Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park), has a couple of major twists, one of them so far-fetched and ridiculous, you have to see it for yourself to believe it. Wait, on second thought, it’s better you just take my word for it.
The backdrop of stunning locations, plush hotels and fancy five-star restaurants endows it with a vague To Catch a Thief panachel. But the film suffers from a severe lack of urgency and emotional engagement. You can’t get involved in a movie in which the characters all seem to be harboring double identities. Depp seems utterly bored to the bone — rarely has a man in mad love seemed so blasé — and he and Jolie don’t fit well as a couple. You keep waiting for her to ask him when he’s going to get a haircut and buy some new clothes. The supporting characters, such as Bettany’s driven detective, are lifted whole from Screenwriting Cliché 101, and even the villains, like a jealous mobster who murdered every man his wife ever slept with before they got married, are cartoons.
The Tourist gets sillier as the plot crawls along, its pace so slow that the movie could well put Ambien out of business once it starts showing up on late-night cable TV. But Jolie emerges unscathed from this stylish folly: Watching her work her way through a black-tie crowd in an evening dress and a diamond necklace provides the sort of glamorous entertainment the rest of The Tourist should have – but cannot – muster.
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, Timothy Dalton, Steven Berkoff.
Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.
Writer: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Christopher McQuarrie, Jullian Fellowes.
Producer: Gary Barber, Roger Bimbaum, Jonathan Glickman.
A Columbia Pictures release. Running time: 104 minutes. Vulgar language, brief violence. Opens Friday Nov. 10 at area theaters.