Tourist, The: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s Misfire (Strangers in Paradise)

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Add the talented German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, who deservedly won the Oscar for “The Lives of Others,” to the long list of foreign filmmakers who were seduced by Hollywood and fell flat on his face with their first assignment.

The list is too long to recite here.
To be fair, it’s not entirely the director’s fault. On paper, the idea of teaming Jolie, the beautiful most bankable female star working in Hollywood today, and Depp, the most original and eccentric actor of his generation, sounds alluring, sort of thinking with these two on the marquee what could wrong?
A lot. To begin with, there is no rapport between the two stars, each one charismatic in his or her right, but failing to establish any chemistry. If you look carefully at the trail, you’ll be able to detect some of the picture’s problems, including its glamorous stars.
The screenplay is credited to Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Christopher McQuarrie, and Julian Fellowes, all Oscar winners, but each with a different sensibility. I would guess that McQuarrie (“The Usual Suspects”) imbued the tale with a darker, noirish tone and that Fellowes (“GosfordPark”) contributed more extensively to the dialogue.
The movie is a failure on any level, as a romantic thriller, as an actioner with thrilling set pieces, as a suspenser shot against picaresque locations in Paris and Venice.
Critics’ reviews will be dismissive and it remains to see if the fans of Jolie and Depp would show up and turn the high-budget picture into a commercial hit?
Johnny Depp plays an “ordinary” man, an American math teacher tourist. During an impromptu trip to Europe to forget a bad affair, Frank meets on a train and engages in a flirtatious encounter with Elise (Angelina Jolie), an extraordinarily beautiful femme. He thinks their meeting was random and accidental, but it turns out that Elize has deliberately crossed his path. But for what reason?
What begins as a semi-playful dalliance with a seductive stranger leads to a web of intrigue and danger. The writers go out of their way to show against the breathtaking backdrop of Paris and Venice, how the whirlwind romance quickly evolves/devolves into something else. But they can’t find any plausible plot, so they simply throw into the mix half-baked ideas and images we have seen in other, better pictures, including Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest,” and “To Catch a Thief.”
The notion of mistaken identity propels the ultra-slender tale. Like “North by Northwest,” in which Cary Grant was presumed to be a man named George Kaplan, Frank is perceived as man named Alexander. And like a typical Hitchcockian hero, he soon becomes the haunted “wrong” man, hunted by both the Scotland Yard (headed by Paul Bettany) and some mysterious gangster (Steven Berkoff), who claims that Alexander had stolen his money.
But the characters are so poorly conceived and etched that you don’t care about any of them. You also don’t care about the romance between Frank and Elise, who seem to be driven by contradictory forces, literally push and pull.  Elize seems intrigued by Frank, but is she really interested in him, or just pretending?
Making things worse is the lack of real chemistry between Depp and Jolie, and their different styles of acting; it could be that, ultimately, both are miscast.
Sporting a bizarre hairdo, which makes him look much less attractive than the uusual, Depp seems lost in his underwritten part, and he is unable to find the key elements that define his character.  In the past, Depp was praised for his original interpretations of a wide variety of roles, but here he gives such a passive performance that it’s impossible to understand what motivated him to sign on this picture in the first place.
Soft and glamorous in an old-fashioned way, Angelina Jolie, as the Interpol agent, fares slightly better–at least she looks right. Nonetheless, she may be too strong an actress and too modernist and assertive a star to inhabit a role that calls for sort of women that had appeared in Hitchcock’s romantic thriller, such as Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly, and Eva Marie Saint..
Lacking wit, energy, and sophistication to pull off a feature that’s burdened with a preposterous plot, “The Tourist” is a misguided picture from conception to execution, based on the erroneous assumption that its stars are the most crucial ingredient, and that when you cast Depp and Jolie together you could go no wrong.