REVIEW: Espionage Caper The Tourist Offers Mystery and Glamour, Plus Depp and Jolie
The Tourist is one of those movies that will leave some viewers scratching their heads, wondering why there isn't more action, more snazzy editing, more obvious crackle between its stars, Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. But I suspect the people who get The Tourist will simply adore it: It's the kind of espionage caper that doesn't get made anymore, a visually sensuous picture made with tender attention to detail and an elegant, understated sense of humor. In style and construction, its spiritual godfather is Stanley Donen's Charade; thematically, its fairy godmother is Preston Sturges' The Lady Eve. If it were a drink, it would be a Bellini, fizzy and sweet and dry all at the same time.
In the opening scene of The Tourist, an undercover type hunched in the cockpit of a surveillance vehicle announces, "The target is leaving the apartment." And what a target! It's Angelina Jolie as Elise, the movie's mystery woman, setting out into A.M. Paris for tea and a croissant. She's dressed, as if by Hitchcock himself, in a creamy sheath dress and elbow-length suede gloves the color of a fawn's tummy; her eyes, cold and glittering, might have been plucked from Nefertiti's tomb. When she reaches her local café, she receives a note from what we presume is a lover, instructing her to board a train to Venice and, en route, find a companion whose shape and build is similar to his, someone who could easily be mistaken -- by the police, by the authorities, by anyone -- for him. As Elise reads the letter -- it's been written, on pristine stationery, in aristocratically precise block letters, and it's signed "Alexandre" -- her eyes flash unreadable signals suggesting determination, anticipation, apprehension. She burns the letter in her teacup saucer (causing a great kerfuffle among the surveillance dweebs), leaves the café and goes directly to the train station, boarding with nothing but a tiny clutch purse that could hold little more than a hankie and a tube of mascara. Then again, what else does a woman like this need?
Once aboard, Elise coolly scans every seat for a suitable victim. One handsome gent after another meets her appraising gaze with a lost-puppy look that veritably cries out, "Pick me! Pick me!" (The lady friend of one of these potentials shoots Elise a death-ray look that sums up the way many women I know feel about Angelina Jolie.) But none of these fellows is right. At last she finds her mark and sidles into the seat opposite him: He's an unassuming gent with his nose buried in a paperback spy thriller. She ascertains, with an IRS agent's precision, that his name is Frank and he's a math teacher from Wisconsin, traveling through Europe as -- you guessed it -- a tourist, looking to repair his broken heart.
They share a dining-car dinner together. When they arrive in Venice, she lures him first into her water taxi and then into a luxe, marzipan-colored suite at the Danieli. They share another dinner and exchange minimal secrets; they kiss; she makes him sleep on the couch. In the morning he finds her gone, and worse yet, he finds himself being pursued across a corrugated landscape of Venetian rooftops by a gang of Russian baddies. Who is this woman?
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