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'The Tourist' tells mediocre spy tale

Starring Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie and Paul Bettany, The Tourist (2010) is an action-packed film nominated for three Golden Globes. With such a talented group, this film has the potential to be terrific.

The movie centers around Frank Tupelo (Depp), an American tourist and math teacher who travels to Venice, Italy, to forget a recently broken romantic relationship. Elise Clifton-Ward (Jolie) is a beautiful and mysterious undercover INTERPOL agent, who made the mistake of falling in love with Alexander Pierce, an uncatchable criminal she is working to arrest.

In addition, Inspector John (Bettany) has devoted multiple unsuccessful years of his life to locating Alexander and bringing him to justice. He has become obsessed with this case and is willing to do almost anything to apprehend the incorrigible thief.

The main plot is unfolded when Elise receives a letter from her beloved instructing her to find a man on the train who has a similar height and build, and use him as an ignorant decoy to lead the police away from the real Alexander, who owes them $775 million in taxes.

As an innocent tourist, Frank enters a state of utter shock when Elise requests that he board her private boat and then takes him to a fancy hotel, choosing him as the Alexander decoy. That night, Elise kisses Frank, unknowingly seen by Shaw’s mafia thugs who assume he is Alexander.

The next morning, Frank’s lovely room service breakfast is rudely interrupted by the violent intrusion of the mafia members. After scrambling on roofs barefoot and accidentally knocking an Italian policeman into a river, Frank narrowly escapes them by getting arrested.

Frank discovers the Italian police are not to be trusted, as he encounters many a harrowing experience throughout the movie. His feelings for Elise deepen, jeopardizing his own safety, as Frank realizes he has become involved in a situation far more dangerous than he originally discerned, ending in a twist most viewers wouldn’t suspect.

A week after I saw The Tourist, I was still trying to formulate an opinion about it. The twist at the end of the film came as a complete surprise to me, but after discussing the matter with other viewers, I was told they suspected it all along. It seemed like an easy way to wrap up the loose ends, but was completely unrealistic.

I am a huge fan of Depp, and while I think he played the role well enough, it was certainly not his top performance. Depp is at his best while playing outlandish characters such as The Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland or Jack Sparrow in The Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. Compared to Depp, Frank is a slightly boring character; he completely lacks the eccentricities Depp is famous for flawlessly portraying, which is not necessarily the actor’s fault. I’m sure he did the best job he could with the material he was given.

Jolie’s role in The Tourist mainly consisted of her posing for flattering camera angles. Elise is a stereotypical undercover spy who always lets her emotions get in the way of carrying out her duties. As such, she falls in love with the evil man she’s trying to turn over to Scotland Yard, making her a predictable character.

I was bothered that she seemingly possessed no knowledge of hand-to-hand combat and never carried a weapon. Since she is an undercover spy, it is essential that she at least have some slight idea of how to protect herself, should her true identity be discovered. Perhaps she was merely pretending to be ignorant of simple self-defense moves to keep her cover intact.

Bettany plays the quintessential devoted and callous FBI agent who focuses solely on protocol and completely suppresses his emotions. He’s willing to risk Elise’s life if it means finally catching Alexander and bringing a close to a case he’s devoted several years to solving. As such, he is a cold, somewhat static character, whose life’s ambition is to see that justice be served regardless of the severity of others’ personal sacrifices. However, Bettany’s performance was better than Jolie’s; he was very convincing.

The script’s subtle use of humor acted as cleverly-inserted comic relief from this action-oriented film. One of the chase scenes was particularly ridiculous, as I don’t think anyone is capable of scaling the rooftops of multiple buildings without wearing shoes. The action scenes kept my attention, and the entire length of the film seemed appropriate to properly convey the story.

Overall, The Tourist is the type of movie I enjoyed seeing once, but I would not pay to watch it a second time. Fans of action/comedies will be most likely to enjoy The Tourist. My life’s secret ambition is to become a spy, so those who share an interest in that field should see this film.

The Tourist is rated PG-13 for violence and brief strong language. The 103-minute movie is currently playing at most local theaters. For tickets and showtimes, visit Fandango.

For more movie reviews, read the Jan. 18 article, ‘Dawn Treader’ surpasses previous installments.

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