Wednesday, 20 April 2011



C-c-c-clang-g-g-g! Hit The Tourist with a stick and it will reverberate like the Rank gong for an hour and a half, it's that empty. Empty isn't necessarily a bad thing - not everything needs a profound and meaningful subtext - but when you've got this level of talent behind and before the camera you really should expect something with considerably more depth than a Ferrero Rocher commercial. But that's all we get from the brilliantly named Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck: two hours of glossy surface, under which there's just a puff of air. As shiny packages go, it's very nice, but there's nothing inside it.

The Tourist is Johnny Depp: an ordinary maths teacher spending his holiday travelling across Europe, and picked up by impossibly glamourous Angelina Jolie, as the sometime lover of a mysterious master thief wanted not just by Scotland Yard (as represented by Paul Bettany and Timothy Dalton) for several million quid in unpaid taxes but by brutal gangster Steven Berkoff for several billion quid that the mystery man stole, and which he understandably wants back. The trouble is that neither Berkoff, Jolie, nor the cops have any idea what Mr X looks like, since he's conveniently had several million dollars worth of plastic surgery....

There are boat chases, there are shootouts, there's a rooftop foot chase with Depp in his pyjamas, there are loads of scenes of the pretty people swanning around Venice, looking utterly fabulous in expensive tuxedos and evening gowns. It's completely silly and completely hollow: you half expect a smooth Euro-accented voice-over to announce "Venezia: the new fragrance from Christian Dior". BUT: the film is directed by Von Donnersmarck, who made the wonderful The Lives Of Others; it's co-scripted by Julian Fellowes and Christopher (the Usual Suspects) McQuarrie, it has a cast boasting numerous awards and countless nominations - so frankly there should be a good deal more substance to the film.

Instead, it's a whole bunch of nothing. As nothing goes, it's very pretty and very shiny, but no matter how nicely it's photographed, it's still nothing. But it's supposed to be nothing, it's supposed to be an entertainment for the eyes, its a piece of glamourous, escapist fluff for a Sunday evening. And you can't get that annoyed with a film that sets out to be a piece of fluff being a piece of fluff. In its low ambitions, it succeeds. But surely it should have aimed higher than nothing.


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