Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Tourist

There are some films that are greater than the sum of their parts, and then there are films in which the greatness is simply in their parts. Take To Catch a Thief, not a great film in any way, but it's elements are so amazing. Cary Grant in beautiful clothes, Grace Kelly in even more beautiful clothes, and the the South of France setting. The Tourist is exactly this type of movie. It does not have an amazing plot, or anything really to say beyond the surface of things, but it's a movie movie--it actually is all about the surface of things, and its surface, for the most part, is worth looking at.

First of all, I have not seen a movie in recent years that relies so heavily on the beauty of its locations, in this case Paris and Venice (and a few shots of London offices that are inspired by M's leather-bound offices in the early Bond films). This film, at times, feels like a travelogue, the way that 1960s films, once they were freed from the studio, took full advantage of location shooting. In particular, the opening 45 minutes of this movie are particularly stunning. There is a scene where Jolie, as a mysterious woman (maybe a thief, maybe a spy), and Depp (the hapless American she picks up), check into a hotel, and the audience is shown everything. Establishing shots of Venice, then the outside of the hotel, then the lobby, then the ride to the room, then the room itself with its views of the Grand Canal. If you're bored reading this then this film isn't for you.

There are flaws. While it may look like Charade at times, it doesn't have the fizzy dialogue or sharp humor of that particular film, but at least it's trying. Angelina is gorgeous, even though at times she seemed too robotic, especially with her over-skinny body. But she is a true, old-fashioned movie star, and there's a sequence in the film when she is completely channeling Sofia Loren. Johnny Depp was a problem for me, and it was partly the way he looked. He's supposed to be a rumpled math professor from Wisconsin but there was something a little off about his face in this movie--it looked puffy. I know I'm being shallow but it's a shallow film. But he grew on me by the end of the movie.

I know this film got tarred and feathered by critics but I don't really understand why. If it had been made in 1965 it would be a minor classic, one of those great rainy afternoon films when you don't want to think about your crummy apartment, and you just want to watch movie stars in beautiful locations.

One more thing: If I were Barbara Broccoli I would hire German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck for a future Bond film.

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