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In a weak attempt to bring together two highly popular Hollywood stars, director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck casually combines the mistaken-identity thrills of 'North by Northwest' with the charming mystery romance of 'Charade.' And by casually, I mean that it's made as if audiences wouldn't take notice of the similarities and the general lack of inspiration within 'The Tourist.' While watching the romantic thriller, I took it as an obvious endeavor to recreate those classic espionage tales of romance. Regrettably, the results couldn't be furthest from the filmmaker's desired effect (and here, I mean the director aspiring for a good and entertaining movie). Ultimately, it leaves viewers certain that Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie should never ever appear onscreen together again.
The movie is actually a remake of a 2005 French film called 'Anthony Zimmer' (which of course, now means I have to watch that crime thriller just for comparison's sake). And from everything I could gather, it took three people, including the director, to simply change the setting from the French Riviera to Venice, Italy. To be fair, the writers probably spent a great deal of time on the translation, but even that seems a bit of a stretch since the dialogue is just as insipid as the movie itself. The conversations between characters, especially Depp's Frank and Jolie's Elise, are so languid and artificial that it makes their performances incredibly wooden. If there are any hints of a personality in these two so-called lovebirds, it's completely lost the moment they open their mouths.
Jolie is supposed to be the former lover of a hotly-pursued international thief — a woman so completely smitten by a criminal that she doesn't protest much when summoned to follow his directions. But the actress depends far too much on her sexy good-looks and those piercing feline eyes to really provide anything close to acting. Meanwhile, Depp is pretending to be a math teacher who loves reading spy novels, which would have made an interesting plot device had the filmmakers thought to ever use it in the movie. The scruffy-haired American is so mind-numbingly flat that he literally requires directional cues from Jolie, whose suggestions are no better. Making matters worse, we could throw a fleet of gondolas into the space between the two actors, they couldn't possibly seem more distant or lacking in chemistry. I can't think of any other onscreen pair to act so much like distant coworkers.
Narratively, the story is incredibly pedestrian and convenient. If you've watched enough movies, particularly those mentioned at the top, you know their chance encounter on the train to Venice is anything but. You also know that the mystery and secrets run much deeper than the filmmakers lead us to believe. The only real conundrum in the 'The Tourist' is how exactly Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (Sheesh! Say that name three times fast) went from the intelligently suspenseful 'The Lives of Others' to this stale, plodding drivel. Or better yet, how exactly did the people at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association decide this movie was worthy of three Golden Globe nominations. 'The Tourist' is lacking in pretty much everything it supposedly promises its viewers.
About the only thing keeping viewers engaged is the gorgeous photography of John Seale ('The Talented Mr. Ripley,' 'The English Patient') and the breathtaking beauty of Italy's most romantic city on water. It's here that the director shows his best work and not in the lackluster action sequences. If this were some kind of travelogue, 'The Tourist' might actually have a chance, but sadly, we're quickly interrupted by this pesky thing called a story, full of mundane dialogue and performances that include Paul Bettany doing nothing of any real importance, except staring at a computer monitor or TV screen. While Steven Berkoff is completely wasted as a marginally threatening gangster, Timothy Dalton and Rufus Sewell make useless cameo appearances meant to distract us from easily figuring out the red-herring conclusion.
I think this is the first time I've ever watched anything filmed in Europe that actually left me not wanting to visit the continent.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment brings 'The Tourist' to Blu-ray on a Region A locked, BD50 disc and housed in a blue eco-vortex case. Fans are given two purchase alternatives (a third would be not buying it at all). The first is a single-disc option while the other is a two-disc combo pack that contains a copy of the movie on standard definition DVD. For review purposes, only the single-disc package was made available. When placed inside the player, viewers are greeted with a promo for Sony products and Blu-ray 3D as well as a series of skippable trailers.
'The Tourist' debuts on Blu-ray with a glossy and squeaky-clean 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.40:1) which gives the movie some much-needed excitement.
The highly-detailed image shows sharply-defined lines in the architecture of the beautiful structures in Venice, revealing every nuance and imperfection in the stones and brickwork. The elegant interiors are also distinct and clear-cut, while textures in clothes and the faces of actors are equally excellent. Contrast is comfortably bright with dazzling whites, and visibility in the far distance provides a strong depth of field. Colors are sumptuous and elaborate, with an emphasis on richly saturated primaries, like Angelina Jolie's succulent red lipstick. Black levels dip slightly in a couple of scenes, but overall, they're deeply rendered and opulent, with strong shadow delineation.
The movie fails to provide much entertainment value, but at least on Blu-ray, it offers some visual amusement.
For an action romance flick, 'The Tourist' does pretty much as one would expect in the audio department. When the "action" suddenly "erupts" on screen — which doesn't happen often — the rears activate with discrete sounds of bullets whizzing by and debris flying in the air. During calmer, duller sequences (the majority of the movie) the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack displays subtle atmospherics that generate a fairly convincing soundscape. The score from James Newton Howard also takes advantage of the higher resolution, extending the soundfield and nicely engaging viewers.
Most of the lossless mix is located in the front soundstage, where vocals are very well-prioritized and lucid. Channel separation is smooth with good balance, creating a welcoming and energetic presence. Dynamics are extensive and wide-ranging with excellent clarity detail while in the midst of heated gunfire. Low frequency effects do feel a bit flat and wanting, but they carry just enough bass to move the action forward. It's a great track that, like the video, gives the movie just a tad more value.
Sony has put together a decent but once again unexciting collection of bonus material, and throws in a few exclusives for good measure.
One of the worst movies to come out in 2010, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's 'The Tourist' sadly ranks as a top contender. Starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, the mystery/thriller/comedy/romance feature tries to capture the charm and polish of classic Hollywood, but quickly sinks into the depths of monotony, weighted by the flat chemistry of its two stars. The Blu-ray, on the other hand, is a winner, with a lovely video presentation and entertaining audio. The bonus material is decent but not that much more exciting than the movie itself. Overall, it's a pleasant enough package for those few who actually enjoyed the short tour through the canals of Venice. Others are better off with a rental before making the commitment.