The Tourist.  Starring Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Stephen Berkoff and Paul Bettany. Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. Rated M (infrequent coarse language and violence). 102 mins.

The Tourist is a bland title for what turns out to be a disappointingly bland movie from director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Lives of Others), remaking a 2005 French thriller called Anthony Zimmer.

The plot is one of those tantalising concoctions in which at the outset nothing seems to make sense, and the audience is bit–by-bit supplied with snippets of information that finally add up to the whole. In this case, however, the “whole” turns out to be hardly worth the journey.

It opens with an ultra-sophisticated surveillance operation as Parisian police (and, via satellite, Scotland Yard) spy on Elise Clifton-Ward (Angelina Jolie with creditable English accent) as she struts like a haute-couture model across the road from her apartment to a street café. A man speaks to her. The police pounce on him as soon as he leaves, thinking they have got their man. Oops.  He is only a courier.

But the letter he delivered to Elise was from the man they want: Alexander Pearce, who owes £744 million in tax and is wanted in 14 countries. The British police’s Financial Crimes Division is determined to track him down. They know he spent £20 million surgically altering his appearance, which means they have no idea what he looks like — but Elise was his lover for two years before they lost track of him, and they are banking that he will make contact with her and thus reveal his identity.

That letter (which she burns before leaving the café) told her to catch a certain train to Venice, which she does, with cops in pursuit. And when she starts chatting en route to another passenger, Frank Tupelo (Johnny Depp), the cops are certain that this must be the rendezvous with Pearce. Never mind that he says he’s a maths teacher from Wisconsin.

When immigration records support Frank’s claim, the police scrub him from their list of suspects. But Frank seems to have taken a shine to the glamorous Elise and keeps hanging around her, getting more and more involved in the dangerous games being played by the police and by a vicious gangster (Stephen Berkoff), who also wants his pound of flesh from Pearce to settle a debt.

Much of the film takes place in Venice, which is simply superb in the classy cinematography by Australia’s John Seale, and the production looks expensive and sleek. But it totally lacks style. The script by director von Donnersmarck, Christopher McQuarrie and Julian Fellowes, based on the 2005 screenplay by Jérôme Salle, plods when it should skip. Its attempts at comedy are heavy-handed and Depp and Jolie have little chemistry. Their banter in early scenes is artificial and forced, and you can’t help thinking how Cary Grant managed to make this sort of stuff delightful, witty and fluffy when paired with an Audrey Hepburn or an Eva Marie Saint.

Depp and Jolie are a poor substitute, and The Tourist is far too laid-back for its own good.

Mr Jim Murphy is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

Sony.   Out December 26

 


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