Friday, December 31, 2010

Opening Scenes

By Chip Schrader
Movie Review Editor
The Tourist, starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, opens with surveillance equipment set within a van that oversees a Paris estate. Elise Ward, played by Jolie, struts through the gate of the estate, and the van slowly follows her seductive stride to a cafe in a populated square where she awaits breakfast and a note. Upon reading the note, she burns it, causing the agents to scramble after it.
From scene one, Jolie’s character is identical to numerous other roles she has played in the past. She mostly goes through the motions of the stock role of femme fatale in this updated noir. The character is somewhat convincing, but very Hollywood at the same time. Jolie’s makeup does a majority of the acting for her as she keeps the run of the mill stone faced performance. While Jolie fans will get what they expect, she does not contribute anything new to the screen.
Depp’s role, on the other hand, has some nuance. “Frank” is quite the gentleman, who hands people luggage off of a train for them, smokes electronic cigarettes, and teaches math for a small college in the Midwest. Depp plays a very serious role in this film, but in line with his signature style, he adds some fanciful humor to his body language and persona in suspenseful scenes.
One example comes during a chase where Frank is pursued among the terracotta roofs of Venice. Depp daintily flails his arms out like a juvenile ballerina wearing striped pajamas as he leaps and bounds across the Italian rooftops. His character also tries to speak Spanish with Italian officials after getting nabbed for dumping an officer in the canal. Long time Johnny Depp fans get another treat to his self-mocking style in this film.
The cinematography is exquisite, traversing from one European city street to another. The action takes place on foot, by car, plane, and by boat in the canals of Venice and are shot masterfully with the evening lights reflecting off of the water, and in the midday amongst the many exotic street sides and bridges. The gadgets and technology are a fun piece of the film, and the supporting cast does a crack job holding down a great deal of screen time playing as government agents and organized crime members.
Fans of classic Hitchcock’s mistaken man and espionage thrillers will enjoy this cliffhanger. The suspense is drawn out in believable ways that don’t appear as obvious devices to delay the story. Another notable element is the quotable dialog that establishes a playful chemistry between Depp and Jolie as they challenge each other’s intelligence. Some films also make the mistake of using dialog to make obvious cues as to what is happening, and what the conflict is. The Tourist is clearly written while viewers don’t depend on obnoxious story points made in the dialog.
The scenes are long, giving the film a deep attention span affording the audience to get acquainted with the intrigue that keeps them guessing until the last scene. Duplicity, twists, and action without gore make The Tourist a tasteful international thriller that is reminiscent of a weekend getaway in an Italian villa. There is a good reason this film brings Oscar buzz in Depp’s direction despite Jolie’s standard performance. 4 out of 5.
Photo caption: (Courtesy movie poster image for “The Tourist”)