Not like the brochure

The Tourist looks good but is just an OK adventure

Jolie and Depp on a train to nowhere.

Jolie and Depp on a train to nowhere.

The Tourist
Starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. Cinemark 14, Feather River Cinemas and Paradise Cinema 7. Rated PG-13.
Rated 3.0

It’s hard not to notice that The Tourist is more impressive as a package deal than as an actual movie. It might look great on paper, but on screen it’s not so great.

But—given the wave of disappointed-sounding reviews in the national press—it’s also necessary to note that this not-so-great movie is nevertheless pretty, good-looking entertainment with a generous assortment of small amusements trailing along in its wake.

The film’s marquee performers—Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp—are of course the prime commodities in this enterprise, and they figure prominently, even if sometimes disconcertingly, among the more visible entertainments here. But that package deal includes a good deal more—a handsome quartet of moderately recognizable Brit actors, with a former James Bond (Timothy Dalton) among them, in supporting roles, and a trio of Oscar winners behind the camera—screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) and Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park) and German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Lives of Others).

The story concocted by the latter three is a mildly rambunctious mash-up of mid-’50s Alfred Hitchcock—as in the continental caper (To Catch a Thief) and the mistaken-identity epic (North by Northwest)—with touches of some more contemporary fandangos, including the Bourne films and, almost fatally, The Usual Supects.

Even the mere mention of the latter connection might have rated full SPOILER status in the review of a film with a more rigorously constructed scenario. But the amiable shambles of The Tourist’s storytelling has just enough in the way of suave frivolousness to keep it more or less afloat—right up to and maybe even beyond some late plot twists that might have completely undone any movie less committed to not taking itself seriously than this one is.

Jolie is vividly two-dimensional in an absurdly multidimensional role—glamour girl, action hero, damsel in distress, undercover agent, international moll of mystery. Depp is valiantly one-dimensional in a role that requires him to be a nobody who is mistaken for someone else, only to become (SPOILER alert) a somebody who has not been what he seems to be … etc., etc.

Dalton (urbane and amused) and Paul Bettany (relentless and annoying) play the Brit police inspectors trailing Jolie and Depp—and contributing to some apparently accidental connections with Salt, Jolie’s other modestly gonzo vehicle of recent vintage. Steven Berkoff plays forcefully to type as a British mogul with Russian mafia connections, and Rufus Sewell is charmingly dazed as the most bemused of the film’s red herrings.

The most spectacular action sequences involve speedboat chases in the canals of Venice, and they are definitely among the film’s casually offbeat amusements, not least because of the opportunities offered the two stars to make improbable rescues of each other’s intermittently imperiled characters.