The Tourist nearly works as a slow-paced, romantic drama. Unfortunately this isn’t a slow-paced, romantic drama; it’s supposed to be some kind of action-thriller. But the script is as light on action as it is on thrills and director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck movie crawls by at a snail’s pace, relying on star chemistry and beautiful backdrops to keep you interested in all the moments when nothing of any real consequence seems to be happening. While it’s true that there’s pleasure to be had in watching Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie motoring endlessly through the watery, stunning streets of Venice, there’s barely enough here to justify making it a movie.
The Tourist’s idea of an action sequence is a slow-speed boat tow through the streets of Venice at night. Even this only happens after an eternity of sleepy exposition in which we meet Elise (Angelina Jolie), a woman in love and on the run. She encounters Frank (Johnny Depp) on a train and uses him as a decoy, attempting to convince the police following her that he’s her husband Alexander. Frank is just a hapless, confused, American math teacher. A tourist. He goes along with it, for no particular reason really, other than that he thinks Elise is ravenous. I think he means she’s ravishing.
Except Elise isn’t ravishing, she’s played by Angelina Jolie who has become so anorexically skinny that her eyes are being sucked into her face by some otherworldly force. She’s clothed throughout the movie in a wide array of bulky wraps. In this case, “wrap” is a fancy word for designer blanket. I assume these blankets are meant to hide the fact that Angelina, once one of the most beautiful, curvaceous women in the world, has turned into a skeleton. Anorexia is no laughing matter, and every time Florian’s camera focuses on her gaunt figure it’s hard not to cringe and wish someone would feed her.
Yet the world around Elise is beautiful and Johnny Depp is effortlessly charming as the somewhat befuddled Frank. Eventually the men following Elise begin hunting him, and Frank finds himself on the run for reasons he doesn’t understand, and intertwined with a beautiful woman whom he’s madly in love with, again, for no particular reason. Depp, even in a movie as slow and ponderous as this one at times becomes, is worth the price of admission.
There are twists and turns, if you can stay awake long enough to enjoy them. But the movie’s premise is weak and the script built around it just isn’t much fun. Donnersmarck and his cast, given very little to work with by the script, are forced to settle for being glamorous instead. Glamorous The Tourist is, in that it tries to make up for the story’s complete lack of significance or motion with some very nice scenery and a few very nice people. It does that so well that at times, it’s almost enough.