An illustrious Angelina Jolie is just one-half of Florian Henekel von Donnersmarck’s (you can’t make a name like this up) The Tourist. Usually considered one of the most beautiful women in the world, Jolie’s character, Elise Clifton-Ward, also exemplifies the same unrestrained beauty: The eyes that capture the attention of any males, and lips that add a sensual touch to everything that she says. This is present from the film’s first scene in which Elise is staked out by a pair of French detectives, who seem to be more concerned with whether or not she is wearing any undergarments — being completely goo-goo eyed at the first sight of Elise’s luscious appearance. However, she also reinforces the belief that “the prettiest people do the ugliest things (as so cunningly put by Kanye West).” Elise is the target of a major investigation for her involvement with Alexander Pierce — a mysterious Englishman who has stolen millions upon millions of dollars from a materialistic and cruel Russian Mafioso, Reginald Shaw (Steven Berkoff).
This is where Johnny Depp’s character Frank Tupelo, a frequent reader of spy-novels and fan of electronic cigarettes, comes into play. They meet on a train; Elise uses her wit and beauty to quickly entice Frank with the promise of a new name — a new life — which is just what Frank and his broken heart (following the untimely death of his wife) need at the moment. Now it is interesting how Depp, who plays a character that is borderline clueless, and Jolie, who of course, performs the exact opposite, have so much natural chemistry. It is even more intriguing how even though we know that Elise is simply using Frank as a decoy in order to distract both Shaw and Stockholm inspector, John Acheson (Paul Bettany), their relationship never seems forced. It just goes to show that Depp and Jolie, who share the screen for the first time in The Tourist, are a pair to behold.
However, two excellent and charismatic leads cannot totally compensate for a mediocre script. Although it has its moment of wit and charm, Donnersmarck, who co-wrote the screenplay with Christopher McQuarrie and Julian Fellowes, constricts himself too tightly when it comes to the film’s storyline, which is a tad cliché and sports one of the worst endings in recent memory. On top of that, the action sequences are few and in between — a far cry from what the film’s trailer promised.
Regardless, The Tourist is still decent. One reason for this is the soundtrack — a mix of modern techno and classic orchestra. The landscape of Venice is also breathtaking, in fact, it made me realize just how important a boat is in terms of transportation for Italians (hey, I’m not a geography nerd, so I don’t blame me for knowing the obvious). Paul Bettany also lends a decent performance, that admittedly, is note-worthy because it is nowhere near as bad as his turn as Michael in the horrible Legion.
The Tourist is not perfect. It’s not going to win any Academy Awards nor will it be remembered months from now. For a film that has gone through so many changes — Tom Cruise was originally slated to play Frank and Alfonso Cuarà³n signed on to direct at one point — it is a surprisingly entertaining, if not sloppy, trip to the cinema that is sure to relax anyone after a long work-week grind.