When not simply functioning as a sorry excuse for a thriller, The Tourist also operates as the Angelina Jolie Ego Trip Show. Strutting about Paris and Venice in designer dresses and sparkling jewelry like a haughty princess, a smug smile affixed to her lips as she condescendingly looks down on the lesser mortals who turn their heads to gawk at her beauty, Jolie doesn’t act so much as arrogantly pose. Treating the material as a catwalk, the star turns the proceedings into a vehicle of self-love, though to be fair, the film hardly deserves better.
A remake of 2005 French trifle Anthony Zimmer, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s Hollywood debut after his Oscar-winning The Lives of Others is incompetent from front to back—as lively as a corpse, as sexy as a baby wipe, and as suspenseful as your average episode of Dora the Explorer. Aerial shots of Italy set to incessantly soaring music, as well as the plot’s focus on well-dressed ciphers wandering about gilded apartments and restaurants, seek to create an atmosphere of ritzy intrigue. Von Donnersmarck, however, exhibits a consistently leaden hand, so that a pan up a swanky hotel staircase, or the sight of Jolie opening a closet, her face drenched in golden light before the camera turns to drool over the glamorous gowns and diamonds inside, revel in luxury with an ardor that’s downright parodic.
Lethargically scripted by Donnersmarck, Christopher McQuarrie (The Way of the Gun), and Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park), the story concerns English woman of mystery Elise (Jolie), who in order to deceive the cops and crooks searching for her embezzler boyfriend Alexander Pearce, seduces a stranger on a train, American math teacher Frank (Johnny Depp), so as to trick her pursuers into thinking Frank is Pearce. Since Depp’s dullard barely behaves surprised by Elise’s interest in him, never raises his voice, and only mildly objects to being shot at by armed thugs, the entire everyman-swept-up-in-espionage conceit never properly kicks into gear, a problem compounded by the headliners’ stark lack of chemistry.
Elise rescues Frank from captors via the slowest boat-getaway sequence in film history, waltzes with him at a gala ball, and then randomly falls in love with him, though before they can sail off in triumphant plot twist-assisted bliss, the couple must first defeat a third-rate gangster (Steven Berkoff) who goofily announces to Elise that he doesn’t understand love, only money. Paul Bettany gets the short end of the stick playing a fretful Scotland Yard agent so incompetent that Frank escapes handcuffs and sneaks off a boat right behind the doofus detective’s back. Yet truly epitomizing this inert affair is Depp, who, without a pirate ship or Tim Burton’s makeup case at his disposal, seems positively asleep.