Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Travelling without moving

What is it about American film-makers that makes them associate visiting strange, darkly exotic and mysterious European cities with crises of personal identity? Think The Talented Mr Ripley and the forthcoming Unknown, which finds Liam Neeson struggling to prove who he is in Berlin. Curiously, the trailer for the latter was shown immediately before the screening of The Tourist we saw before Christmas - a film which is strikingly similar in subject matter and setting.

And what a setting. The Tourist basically amounts to glossy travel porn for the benefit of the Venetian Tourist Board. I've never been, but somehow suspect that the streets are rarely so empty and deserted. Oh the advantages of being able to cordon off whole areas for your own personal use. There's no denying, though, that Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's advert for the city is gorgeously shot.

But that's really the best thing to recommend the film. Johnny Depp does what he can but ultimately finds his considerable talents underutilised. The plot is ponderous for an alleged thriller - perhaps, in part, because Depp's co-star Angelina Jolie is an alluring waxwork whose every movement seems to take place in slow motion. It owes a definite debt to both Messrs Bond and Bourne - but, I'd suggest, also The Usual Suspects in that its central focus is a mysterious character conspicuous by his absence. There's a similar twist, of course, but in this instance it's telegraphed a mile off.

To be honest, though, the above verdict only really crystallised after reflecting on the film afterwards and exposing myself to some of the reviews, which were almost universally damning. At the time - perhaps because of my low expectations (we had one day left to use a Cineworld gift card and didn't fancy any of the released-for-Christmas animated films or the remade Tron) - I must confess to actually quite enjoying it, stylish but superficial and derivative though it is.


Jon said...

Nice summary of Tron. Fits with my thoughts.

Few quick recommendations for you: Black Swan, Animal Kingdom, Biutiful. All excellent. I particularly recommend Black Swan.

Ben said...

Accidental, as it happens - I hadn't realised it was a sequel not a remake!

Saw the trailer for Black Swan before The Tourist and thought it looked good.

Hope to keep at least one reader happy with the occasional film review over the next few weeks - like book reviews, they've been lamentably few and far between on here thanks to the sheer volume of gigs/festivals I've been to...