Though Jolie has proved she's got acting chops, she continually comes back to the crime thriller. Here, Jolie plays Elise Ward, an undercover agent who has fallen for Alexander Pierce, the man she went undercover to apprehend, because he stole $744 million from clients as a personal banker. In order to protect him, she boards a train to Venice from Paris and finds a man his height and build to throw off the police. The film is less violent than many other movies in the genre, which leaves less action for Jolie, and doesn't challenge her in any way.
Depp plays Frank Tupelo, a heartbroken American math teacher on vacation alone in Europe who Elise picks as Alexander's doppelganger. The role of Frank could be considered a departure for Depp, as he's so used to playing wild eccentrics and this guy is more or less an ordinary man. The classic Depp charm doesn't even surface until the very end of the film.
Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, the German filmmaker responsible for the art-house hit The Lives of Others, takes a minimalist approach to the normally over-the-top thriller genre. When Russian assassins working for a mobster ,chase Frank across the crumbling rooftops of Venice, he makes humorously small leaps that no one would define as death defying.
At one point Elise tries to save Frank from the Russians by tying her boat to his and pulling him away. Normally, this would result in a high-speed boat chase through the canals of Venice. Instead Henckel von Donnersmarck opts for a slow-paced and more realistic approach. Downplaying the action might not be for everyone, but it made the film more plausible and less ridiculous than other films in the oftentimes over zealous genre.
Now, on to the business of chemistry. When Frank and Elise first meet on the train, we immediately question whether or not romance will even be possible for elegant Elise and simple Frank. When Elise says to Frank over dinner, "You're the cool math teacher, aren't you?" it's laughable; you can feel the romantic potential dissipate. Our hopes are rekindled soon after, however, when the two kiss on the balcony of their hotel room, and even more so when Frank dreams of grabbing the back of her head and spinning her around to kiss her in the bedroom. It's during this sequence we get a peak at the molecule of chemistry between Depp and Jolie.
When it comes down to it, the spark we'd hoped for between Depp and Jolie never catches fire. That's not to say they weren't good in their roles or that the movie wasn't solid - it just wasn't romantic cinema gold. Though, I would much rather see Depp and Jolie in The Tourist than the other actors that reportedly dropped out of the film, Tom Cruise and Charlize Theron.
The Hollywood equation of one super-hot star plus another super-hot star may not have added up to cinematic chemistry, but you can't win them all. The minimalist approach to action was a breath of fresh air in a genre clouded with CGI effects and fanatical violence. Despite the lack of energy missing due to the minimal carnage, The Tourist's surprise twist makes it worth watching. Well, that and the incredible handsomeness that is Johnny Depp.
Starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie
Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck