Dearth in Venice
The stars and setting provide plenty of eye candy, but we were hoping for something just a bit more substantial from the director of writes Donald Clarke
WHAT DID we expect Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck to do after The Lives of Others? Another meditation on the discontents of post-war Germany? A longcherished project concerning an obscure high-brow philosopher?
Perhaps not. Though that muchadmired film – indeed, one of the most rapturously reviewed of the past decade – addressed serious issues, it was, more than anything else, a rollicking entertainment. So, it is not altogether surprising that Herr von Donnersmarck has plumped for a shamelessly unpretentious comedy-thriller.
But still. This fleshed-out
travelogue is so lightweight it has trouble remaining anchored to the screen. Breathe too heavily and it might, you feel, break apart before your gaping eyes.
None of which is to suggest that The Tourist is not good fun. What we have here is a luscious romp in the style of classic diversions such as Charade or North by Northwest. It is not, of course, in the same class. But it is somewhat more consistent than recent clones such as Salt and Knight and Day. You could do worse.
The twisty plot finds Detective Paul Bettany and his colleagues spying on Elise, a glamorous Englishwoman with an absurdly elegant wardrobe and an anachronistically aristocratic accent. Played by Angelina Jolie with her customary extra-terrestrial poise, Elise is, essentially, a less fleshy version of Lady Penelope from Thunderbirds.
Events kick off with the officers observing her receive a mysterious note at a Parisian café. The missive, which she immediately burns, instructs her to get on a train to Venice, pounce on an unsuspecting bystander and – by cuddling up close and inviting kisses and smooches – convince the authorities that he (the stranger I mean) is the sender of the note.
Somewhat later, we learn that Elise was once married to a fraudster who stole some massive sum of money from an English hoodlum deranged enough to be played by Steven Berkoff (me hungry, me gnaw on innocent furniture). The constabulary are watching her to get at him.
Offered a trainload of businessmen, InterRailing students and retirees on jaunts, Elise, not surprisingly, plumps for the traveller who looks most like Johnny Depp. You wouldn’t think that Mr Depp is ideal casting for a shy maths teacher from Wisconsin, but, to be fair to the star, he pulls the role off pretty well. Wearing a woolly beard, his face fattened out ever so slightly, Depp does a decent impersonation of somebody you might expect to meet at a model railway convention. Anyway, this is not the sort of film that requires the female lead to fall in love with John C Reilly or Paul Giamatti.
Oops, did I say “fall in I love”? Well, let’s not pretend we’re giving anything away. Forced to rub along in a hotel suite that comprises only 10 or 12 rooms (cue views of Venice’s most lovely canal and buckets filled with the finest champagne), they soon find themselves warming to one another. Unhappily, Berkoff’s gang fall for the scam and take to discharging revolvers in the blameless pedagogue’s direction.
Showcasing the same love of brown light and crawling camera moves that characterised his first film, von Donnersmarck makes something undeniably seductive of the opening sequences. As well as aping the plot of Charade, he also does a decent job of replicating the delicious tone of Stanley Donen’s film. Cut out the few rare glimpses of a mobile phone and The Tourist could easily be mistaken for something shot in circa 1963.
You probably know what’s coming. Like so many recent films that rely on ambience, The Tourist (based on an undistinguished French film called Anthony Zimmer) doesn’t seem to have any idea how to tie up its many loose ends. The final quarter is rushed, incoherent and perfunctory. Most disgracefully, the final twist is so obvious and banal you will probably have already run it through your brain and dismissed it as a serious possibility.
Which brings us back to our opening dilemma. The Tourist passes the time well enough, but you wonder why von Donnersmarck bothered with it.
Rufus Sewell can’t take his eyes off Angelina Jolie in The Tourist