All eyes are on Angelina Jolie; okay, so that’s not much of a surprise, is it? But, I’m talking about the opening scenes of Jolie’s partnership with Johnny Depp in the remake of the French spy thriller Anthony Zimmer, retitled for the American audience, The Tourist. Her character Elise is attracting a lot of attention from men hidden away in vans with surveillance equipment trained on her every move and from every angle. No, it’s not the paparazzi this time. Elise is being followed because the intelligence community believes she will lead them to their real target, an elusive master criminal named Alex. Instead Elise merely receives a letter which she proceeds to burn and walk away. The agents swarm on the smoldering paper, convinced it’s a message from Alex and a clue to his whereabouts. It seems he’s gotten away with a ton of money, and sources say he has used some of those riches to alter his appearance, and Elise is the only clue they have left.
The note has instructed her to take a specific train and locate a random person that approximates his size. The idea is to convince the agents that the rube is Alex, thus distracting them from their true quarry whom she is to meet in Venice. On the train, Elise chooses math teacher Frank Tupelo (Depp) for the ruse. She develops an odd attraction for the man and invites him to stay with her in her lavish hotel suite. A series of mistaken identity gags gives Depp a chance to shine in the role, while Jolie offers the window dressing and emotional attachment for the team. Expect plenty of misdirection and red herrings.
The film is really nothing more than an excuse for the too-long-in-coming teaming of Jolie and Depp. Together they add the kind of charm and sex appeal that this kind of a film depends upon to work. Fortunately, the film sports a clever enough script and moves at a good enough pace that the stars don’t have to completely carry the film on their backs. But they could have. The teaming works remarkably well, and they share the kind of chemistry that might have you wanting more. Of course, both have such hectic schedules that we’re not likely to get another fix like this for quite some time. These are the kind of actors that love to work, and it shows in everything they do. While I never really bought into the acclaimed beauty most ascribe to Jolie, she’s certainly pleasant enough to look at. I find her attractiveness more in her confidence with each role she takes on. She sells herself in every role, a trait she shares in spades with Johnny Depp. These are both actors that put everything into each character they play. With Jolie there is always an effort to enhance her natural appearance. With Depp, however, he immerses himself as much physically as he does emotionally in a role. He is almost unrecognizable from one character to the next. While he looks pretty much like Johnny Depp here, his mannerisms and more “normal” look here might be the most alien of all. There is a nod to Captain Jack that can’t have been accidental. Depp is chased out onto the clay roof of his hotel. As he traipses across the perilous terrain, he delivers a perfect Captain Jack swagger, hands in the air and all. That’s what makes a film like this worth watching. With these two leads, you can be sure that you’ll be entertained with the worst of scripts.
But this isn’t exactly the worst of scripts. Consider it a bonus that the story is just good enough to provide the kinds of opportunities these actors live for. I’d rather not go into the details of the plot too much for fear it will spoil what should be an entertaining two hours, if you decide to take my advice and give The Tourist a try.
I will tell you that you’re in for some driving action. There’s plenty of chases and the expected gunfire exchanges. The canals of Venice provide a thrilling background for the action. Just in case you don’t find the leads sexy and attractive enough for your tastes, director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck offers you some wonderful views of the enchanting city that will awaken the inner “tourist” in anyone who is watching. You might find it hard to believe, but there were moments I lost both leads in the splendor of the incredible city. The cinematography is a huge plus here and alone might be enough to capture your imagination.
It’s obvious that Alfred Hitchcock is a driving influence in the movie. While lighter than many of his thrillers, the movie moves very much like To Catch A Thief. That was another film that featured two of the days more charming and attractive leads in Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. That movie also moved among the classic European setting, the French Riviera. The stories might differ, but the same romantic elements are abundant in The Tourist. It isn’t hard to see Jolie and Depp in a remake of that classic. Consider this a preview to what that might be like. Hitchcock fans will be pleased with the results. Without outright copying the style, this might be the closest I’ve seen in a couple of decades. There are worse goals to aspire to.
The Tourist is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average 30 mbps. This movie plays out like a high-definition travelogue for Venice, Italy. The cinematography is splendid, and the results on this high-definition image presentation are nothing short of stunning. The image offers indelible sharpness and detail that allow you to feel the texture of these ancient buildings and streets. Colors are brilliant. Reds and rust colors particularly shine. Contrast is picture- perfect. It’s like you’re peering through a window that has been kept immaculately clean for your enjoyment. Black levels are just as strong, providing excelled shadow definition and detail. This is an image you can feel as well as see.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 might not be quite so spectacular, but it does nearly as good of a job immersing you in the action. The sound is quite natural. It picks up where it needs to, and you can rely on strong sub response when called for. The score is a good one that provides atmosphere but knows when to get out of the way and when to sweep you off your feet. I would describe this audio presentation in one word: balanced. Dialog is perfect.
The extras are the only place the film disappoints. While still in AVC/MPEG-4, the bit rate stays in SD territory throughout much of the presentation.
Canal Chats: (6:01) This is complete style and promo. There’s plenty of split-screen in this manic look at the Venice location. You’ll appreciate it so much more in the film itself.
A Gala Affair: (7:12) A closer look at the gala ball scene and the historic location where it was shot.
Action In Venice: (6:29) The canal chase with the boats was originally intended as a motorcycle chase, but was prohibited by the city of Venice. Take a look at how the replacement boat scene was pulled off while under tight speed and wake restrictions.
Bringing Glamour Back: (9:08) Cast and crew talk about the flashy glamour of the film. Even the music is examined with some nice comments from composer and former Elton John band member James Newton-Howard.
Tourist Destination: (3:17) Cast and crew talk about how cool it was to work and live in Venice.
Alternate Animated Title Sequence: (2:14) Originally the opening credits where a crude animation sequence.
Outtake Reel: (1:26)
DVD and Digital Copy
I think what I enjoyed the most about the film was the old-school meets new-school feel I got from watching the movie. I felt that there was enough of everything to give me a full entertainment experience. I think I was concerned that the movie would merely rely on the two leads to carry the weight and phone in the rest of the essentials. No one is phoning it in here. It’s a grand effort by all, and it seems like they had just as grand a time doing the work. The Blu-ray gives you a pretty solid presentation of a fun-filled movie. You get Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. You get the city of Venice in all its glory. The twists and the turns will keep you on your toes, and there’s enough romance for that crowd. Any of that sound like fun? Sounds to me like “you’ve been summoned”.