Combustible Celluloid
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With: Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, Timothy Dalton, Steven Berkoff, Rufus Sewell
Written by: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Christopher McQuarrie, Julian Fellowes, based on a screenplay by J�r�me Salle
Directed by: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and brief strong language
Running Time: 104
Date: 12/08/2010

The Tourist (2010)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Bad Vacation

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It doesn't seem too hard to make this kind of romantic espionage adventure film, especially if you have the budget to film in Venice and Paris. But somehow director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck -- who won an Oscar for his foreign language film The Lives of Others (2006) -- can't find a spark to make it light up.

Angelina Jolie stars as Elise, a spy who is under constant surveillance by British Interpol agents. She receives a message from her former lover Alexander; she is to board a train and find someone of a similar height and build, in order to "make them think it's me." She finds American tourist Frank (Johnny Depp), traveling alone to mend a broken heart. The two make a connection, but of course, their relationship is doomed when armed goons begin chasing Frank, looking for money stolen by his "doppelganger."

Jolie and Depp are both big stars, but they both seem overly made-up here, and they never create any chemistry together, as if their make-up prevented them from actually touching. A screenplay by an Oscar-winning supergroup, consisting of von Donnersmarck, Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) and Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park), can't quite make it all believable. For example, Interpol agent (Paul Bettany) refuses to take action because he hopes for the real Alexander to turn up and make things right.

Von Donnersmarck gets some lovely shots of Italy and France, and a score by James Newton Howard tries to sound like an old-fashioned Charade-type affair. But when Depp runs across some tile rooftops in his pajamas, chased by some unknown thugs, whatever sense of thrills, humor and awe that should have been there is just absent. Indeed, whenever Jolie entered a room, I found my attention wandering to the European extras, whose heads keep turning to watch her. They seemed far more enchanted by her than I was. Maybe you had to be there.

The only good thing here is that this film vindicates my argument that Guillermo Del Toro should have won that 2006 Oscar for Pan's Labyrinth, rather than Von Donnersmarck. I could tell back then that Del Toro was the clear and superior artist of the two, and the lack of personality on Von Donnersmarck's second film helps prove my point.

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