Friday, January 7, 2011

"Tourist" not thrilling but enough star power to entertain

The Tourist (2010)
102 min., rated PG-13
Grade: B -

Alfred Hitchcock used to handle you've-got-the-wrong-guy espionage caper plots with suspense and wit, and Cary Grant and Grace Kelly provided the star power. Two of the biggest movie stars on the planet—Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp—are fun to watch, but director/co-writer Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (in his first Hollywood film) achieves more of a pretty, glossy star vehicle than a crackling Hitchcockian thriller. 

Jolie, purring and slinking by in glorious gowns, is the British agent fatale, Elise, and Depp, with his beard and electronic cigarette, is the innocent Wisconsin math teacher, Frank. While under surveillance by Scotland Yard, Elise boards a train from Paris to Venice and ropes Frank (by random) into posing as her on-the-lam lover, Alexander Pearce, an international man of mystery who's stolen billions from mobsters. 

The “strangers on a train” scenes have a light, playful touch with witty, rat-a-tat-tat banter between the stars, although the romance is a fizzle. When Elise and Frank start saying they love each other, nothing ignites.

Jolie looks sultry and classy, and the camera loves her: she is a strikingly beautiful creature. But there's no real character to Elise. Though more interesting at playing a kooky oddball or a madhattered nutso, Depp's likably goofy, clueless turn is an understatedly welcome change of pace as this bewildered Everyman. And Venice! Veteran cinematographer John Seale beautifully lenses the Italian scenery into mouth-watering postcards. 

The plot isn't exactly airtight, with a preposterously flimsy twist ending, but none of that really matters. Frank's use of speaking Spanish is amusing and a rooftop chase between Frank in his pajamas and two inept Russian henchman is fun. 

If you're undemanding and fancy a vacation in Italy with Jolie and Depp, The Tourist works as a diverting escapism.

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