Possibly one of the most unexpected things that could be done in Hollywood as of late is to cast the charming Johnny Depp in a movie that is directed by someone other than Tim Burton; in this case it’s far from common with director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck at the helm. This is only the second film under his directorial vision, the first being “The Live of Others” from 2006 which I only vaguely recall hearing about – but it apparently did well. I’m honestly not surprised. I didn’t know what to expect from The Tourist as the only rumblings I’ve been able to gather about it simply damned it with no detailed reasoning given. Given that disappointing impression I simply expected to be bored throughout its entire run, but not long into the movie it managed to intrigue me – even before I even realized that it had.
Frank (Johnny Depp), a mild-mannered American on vacation in Venice, Italy, is befriended by Elise (Angelina Jolie), a breathtakingly beautiful woman with a mysterious secret. Soon, their playful romantic dalliance turns into a complicated web of dangerous deceit as they are chased by Interpol, the Italian police, and Russian hit men in this suspense-filled, international action thriller.
Although the movie itself isn’t so much an impressive work (more on that later), I simply have to admire this movie for Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie’s performances. The trailers want you to believe this is some common action flick full of plot twists around every bend, but it’s a very relaxed story. It has an inevitable complexity but the general tone of the movie is very subdued and that unexpected sublime is far from what we’ve seen this pair featured in throughout the recent decade. Honestly, I have never been all that impressed with Jolie when she is cast in a role that is meant to emphasize her sex appeal and some contrived attitude that makes her Lady Badass. However, this movie, in its somber and patient narrative, actually brought a performance from her that significantly heightened my respect for her as an actress. She not only manages to keep an air of mystery about her attitude even when we supposedly have her character, Elise, figured out, but she manages to convince you that she truly was becoming sincerely and gradually infatuated with Frank (Johnny Depp) throughout the film.
Depp is similarly impressive, considering the over-the-top roles he’s been recently featured; it’s still difficult for me to believe that he managed to act… normal. As the movie sets up its introduction of his character you simply can’t get past the notions in your head that you know exactly how his performance is going to be. Yet, within in first few minutes he manages to impress you with a very unexpected performance that would have you believe that he is simply a common man. That there is truly no big hero contained within. That talent combined with some great writing and very talented directing make for a performance that, like Jolie, never disappoint through to the end of the movie. There are several scenarios in which you expect him to break the casual-yet-cautious demeanor to make this an action movie, but it never comes.
The supporting cast is fairly small, but not a single one can be ignored as they all played their roles to the expectation of their talents making for a consistent flow of talent that never took the movie to an unfortunate low. Timothy Dalton (Chief Inspector Jones), Steven Berkoff (Reginald Shaw), Paul Bettany (Inspector John Acheson) all contribute worthwhile performances despite their considerably smaller parts throughout. The most unexpected casting choice, however, had to be Rufus Sewell who is used very well for the climax of the movie. Although he’s not an actor that pops up frequently in Hollywood, it’s never a waste when he does and his presence here was incredibly clever.
The various plots throughout the movie are well crafted and their depiction as they unfold is some truly talented work, however the overall story unfortunately leaves something to be desired. As I was watching I was constantly confused as to why anyone was disappointed by the movie, and I could only assume that it was due to the trailer setting up an entirely different expectation. But, you eventually find out once the movie reaches its inevitable twist. Since it’s really the only major plot twist of the movie, with the few others being fairly minor, I certainly won’t give it away. I have to say, though, that it certainly cheapens the charm that Depp and Jolie managed to convey in their scenes and puts a perspective on the story that is unfortunately shallow, paranoid, and narcissistic. It’s not the worst twist of all time, but it ruins what was otherwise a refreshingly charismatic, well paced and comfortably-romantic-for-all mystery film.
Overall, the story isn’t all that original and the payoff manages to walk the thin line in which it can be painfully predictable yet unexpected, but still suffers. At first I felt that I should have been utterly disappointed with the major twist, but I enjoyed the acting talents of Depp, Jolie, Bettany, Dalton and Berkoff and the soft-but-not dull pace of the movie far too much. This is Highly Recommended, perhaps through bias of a hopeless romantic, but I do expect nearly anyone to be disappointed with the plot’s conclusion.
The Tourist finds a home in a standard single disc Elite Blu-ray case—and that’s it, really. There are two varieties of this release for some reason; one with just the Blu-ray and one with a Blu-ray/DVD + Digital Copy combo pack. Not sure why they have two different versions, but there you have it. All in all menus are simple and easy to navigate and the BD-Live integration is the standard affair.
Moving onto the AVC encoded 1080p 2.40:1 transfer we get the usual flawless presentation out of Sony. The majority of the film oozes detail out of all of the frames, boasting plenty of detail in the myriad of sequences that range from daylight to nighttime in the city. The real joy from this transfer stems from the absolutely gorgeous locations on which this film was shot. Everything looks fantastic and even dimly lit shots of Deep and Jolie on a boat still look remarkable. On top of that we have plenty of detail on character faces and the like.
The audio matches the visual presentation with great precision. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix is decidedly well…a bit boring, but still manages to entertain when the action on screen does occur. The Tourist really is quite a dull film and the audio mix reflects all of the droll scenes that we have to partake in to get to the good stuff. Sadly there isn’t much of that in either the movie or the sound mix, but it still is quite well done and, if anything, the A/V presentation for this film is its only saving grace.
• Canal Chats
• A Gala Affair
• Action in Venice
• Bringing Glamour Back
• Tourist Destination-Travel the Canals of Venice
• Director Commentary
• Outtake Reel
Not a bad roster overall, although if you take the commentary out of the mix there is barely even a half hour of extras between the featurettes and other BD-Live components. Still not a bad mixture overall as the commentary is worth listening to as director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck remarks on all kinds of things about the film, all of which seem (to me) a lot more interesting than the film itself. All in all it’s quite a unremarkable set of extras when all is said and done, but it’s worth a Rental at least if you enjoyed the film (for whatever reason).
The Tourist arrives on Blu-ray, Blu-ray + DVD / Digital Copy and DVD on March 22nd.
Film review by Andrew
Blu-ray review by Zach Demeter