Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Tourist - Blu-ray Review



Blu-ray/DVD Release Date: March 22, 2011

I'm not sure what to make of The Tourist. It came and went during the Christmas season last year so quickly that you would have thought it never got released at all. Then it was nominated for a Best Picture of the Year award for Comedy/Musical (which this is neither mind you) at last years Golden Globe awards which completely baffled everyone. To say I went into this a little skeptical would be the understatement of the year I think.


Review Vital Stats:
Format: Blu-ray
Player: LG Model 370 
Monitor: Samsung 40' LCD Series 5
Picture Quality: 1080p
Sound Quality: DTS-HD

Biases:
Loves: Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Venice
Likes: Romantic comedies
Neutral: Paul Bettany
Hates: Middle-of-the-road movies
Paycheck: Jolie & Depp's inspiration


I hate writing reviews up on movies like this. It has nothing inherently wrong with it, the cast is great (despite some reservations with the two main stars), the location is beautiful, and the story is filled with so many Hitchcockian touches throughout. But yet there was something missing from it, it all felt flat. I found myself drifting away thinking of many better films I could be watching or wondering how much Jolie and Depp were paid for their Italian vacation while filming. When you start thinking about what you have planned for tomorrow or how many loads of laundry need to be done while watching a movie with two of today's biggest stars there is most certainly something wrong. I can handle a bad film, I love a great or even good film but the hardest thing for me to do is force myself to be interested in a film that seemingly has no interest in itself. The Tourist is one of the greatest and most puzzling failures of last year and after watching it I can see why now.

Elise (Angelina Jolie) has been under surveillance by Scotland Yard Inspector John Acheson (Paul Bettany) for the past 2 years as they await the moment when the notorious criminal Alexander Pierce, whom has had facial reconstruction so nobody can find him, will eventually contact his former lover. She soon receives instructions that tell her to board a train bound for Venice Italy and to locate any man on that train that bares a resemblance to him in hopes of throwing the police off his trail. She boards the train and the lucky man she chooses just so happens to be a widowed school teacher named Frank (Johnny Depp). Elise invites herself to his table and using her seductive ways begins to work Frank into whatever plan that Alexander has for them. Problems arrive however when some old acquaintances (namely the gangsters Alexander relieved over 2.3 Billion euros from) actually do believe that Frank is Alexander and begin to hunt him down all over Venice with Elise constantly trying to keep him alive long enough for their plan to succeed.

Angelina sure is good at looking gorgeous.

There were things I did like about the film and I suppose I will start with those, as few as there are. As I mentioned, the casting is pretty spot on. Beyond the two main stars whom I will get to in a moment, the supporting cast filled in the gaps quite nicely. Paul Bettany, an actor that the more I see of the more I begin to realize he just doesn't have much range, did a fine job as the Inspector chasing a man that has fallen off the face of the Earth. It's not that I think he did anything amazing here but he filled the role of the man giving chase to our heroes competently enough. And I was surprised to see Timothy Dalton show up as the man in charge at Scotland Yard but it was a pleasant surprise. While he isn't on screen for too long, the few scenes he was in he brought his usual warmth and charm that was very welcome.

The reason I bring up the supporting cast before speaking about the two lead actors is because there was something strange about their casting. It's not something you would notice from the trailer or even through the opening moments of the film. I came to realize at about the half way point that Jolie & Depp have almost zero chemistry...TOGETHER. I emphasize the word together there because what messed with my head was that they both did fine in their individual scenes. Hell, they did great even but when the two of them were in the same scenes together they just didn't have that click, the thing that tells you two people are meant for one another. Now they most certainly tried to convey that with every fiber of their being as they constantly flirted with each other but the harder they tried the more it all felt wrong.

Johnny Depp doesn't ever show much more emotion than this unfortunately.

And this brings me to what I was talking about at the beginning of this, it is very difficult to put into words how something just doesn't feel right. In a film like this where everything hinges on us becoming invested in these two characters, if we don't ever get on board like we are supposed to then the whole affair just comes crumbling down. I was hoping that there would be that moment of connection where I could understand why they would fall in love with each other. You can have to two most incompatible people alive that just don't mix at all but if the filmmakers can properly lull us into a state of believability where we can see why such a beautiful woman like Jolie would fall for an average Joe like Frank then I might be OK with it. But the film never even tried that much, we are asked to believe that after one night in Venice and a single quick kiss would make them fall in love. That lack of follow through combined with the general feeling that these two just aren't meant for each other made everything else that happens in it ultimately pointless for me.

Unfortunately everything else isn't much better either regardless of the lead actors chemistry. First of all I could not find one single moment where I found the film to be funny. Sure, some of the line deliveries from Depp are amusing but there was nothing that even elicited a grin out of me. And from what I could tell Depp was the only person in the entire film that seemed to even be trying to inject any humor to the dry proceedings. Jolie plays it all perfectly straight and actually as I think about it she never once appeared to be trying very hard to do anything beyond just looking gorgeous. Granted, most people would be fine with a two hour film with Angelina Jolie just walking around being beautiful but this just seemed lazy to me. I swear that just about every scene she had her motivation must have been to just stare off screen with those feline eyes of hers and just look stunning. Both Jolie & Depp put in adequate performances but it just didn't feel like their hearts were in it at the end of the day.

The boys at Scotland Yard are hard at work.

But many of the other issues I had with the film stretch far beyond the casting of its two stars. There were two scenes with what I believe were meant to be exciting action sequences. One with Depp traversing the rooftops of Venice while being chased by men with guns and another that takes place in the canals of Venice. The rooftop scene was forgivable for being somewhat pedestrian because Depp's character is supposed to be a man on vacation that gets swept up into all this intrigue and danger. But that boat chase is just...well its a lot like the rest of the film, it works on a purely technical level but it just doesn't have any spark to it. The boats are going what appears to be a whopping ten to fifteen miles per hour while being chased by a few goons on foot. I am not sure what could have been done to make it more perilous but what was given to us is just not acceptable.

Then there are the bad guys, oh brother. I don't think they could have conjured up any more cliches for these guys if they tried. I bet you can't guess what happens when one of the bad guys thugs returns with the news that they let our heroes get away. While being pampered as all wealthy bad guys are (this time being measured for a suit) he kills the guy that was in charge of retrieving Depp & Jolie. I am always amused when a man kills a paid employ right in front of all his other employees and then those guys still stick around. Wouldn't you be outta there in a heartbeat after witnessing your boss STRANGLE one of your co-workers? I don't care how much you pay me, I'm done at that point. But all the bad guys are just kind of there with no purpose other than to show up at the end and put our heroes in danger before being killed themselves just in the nick of time.

Seriously, somehow by this point I was completely tuned out.

I guess that is my issue with the film overall, there doesn't seem to be one person involved with it in front or behind the camera that appeared to be completely invested in what they were making. The entire production from beginning to end all felt like they were going through the motions which is what makes it so infuriating. They didn't make a bad movie yet they didn't make a good one either. All the talent that was assembled to put this together just didn't seem to care about the material. If it did not have the star power of Jolie & Depp I can't imagine it would have ever been made because there just isn't anything worthwhile here. 

I know I haven't spent any time reflecting on any real positives which I apologize for but there in lies my issue with the film. Yes, I couldn't fully invest with our two leading actors being romantic towards one another and both seemed to be phoning it in, but they still did OK. Yes, the action and comedy elements were either non-existent or just lame, but it wasn't unwatchable. Yes, the locale it takes place in is very beautiful (just watch the extra features for that to be reinforced), but if I want to see how beautiful Venice Italy is I can find much better ways to do that. But even now I cannot bring myself to say don't watch it. Maybe my issues with the two stars isn't shared by others, perhaps you will love them in it. So in that case I will leave it up to you, just consider this review to be a fair warning that when you watch it, don't be surprised if you find your mind start to wonder off and begin thinking about what you should cook for dinner later.


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What's on the disc?

This is starting to become a rather sad recurring state of affairs with special features anymore. So many discs have a collection of extras that just seem like padding to put some more bullet points on the back of the case. It would be alright if even just a couple of the features were worthwhile but when they just regurgitate the same tired content from one feature to the next I start to get a little upset. I guess in a way these features mirror the film they are derived from, they are not bad or good, they are just OK.

Gotta love those eyes...and lips.


Director Commentary - Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck gives some insights into his own feelings on the film in a commentary that seemed to have more life to it than the actual film itself. I also love it when someone mentions something of interest that should have been in the features section and isn't, this time he brings up Johnny Depp's obscene improvs he would do. It would have been nice to see some of those in the outtakes section. Overall it was a good listen and without a doubt the best feature included here.

Canal Chats (6:00 min) HD - A small collection of interviews with some of the cast & crew of the film. All the interviews take place while traveling down the canals of Venice. Most of the conversations deal with how beautiful Venice is and how lucky they are to be filming there.

A Gala Affair (7:11 min) HD - A glimpse at how the Ballroom sequence was filmed and all the work that went into its realization. Pity that their efforts are not that noticeable in the final cut but it is even more of a knock that this featurette is longer than the actual Ballroom sequence itself.

Action In Venice (6:30 min) HD - Showing and telling us the complexities of not only staging an action scene in the canals of Venice but also how difficult it is in being allowed to do such a thing. Once again, everyone talks about how brilliant the scene is and how much fun they had filming it despite the scene in the film not being all that great. Kudos for them being allowed to shoot it for real in Venice though.

Bringing Glamour Back (9:08 min) HD - This starts out being about how beautiful the city of Venice is just like we had already been told in some of the other features. But then it turns into how pretty Angelina Jolie is and how handsome Johnny Depp is. Strangely they threw in a quick blurb about the film's composer James Newton Howard and how this is his best score ever...OK then.

Tourist Destination: Travel the Canals of Venice (3:17 min) HD - And here is the winner for the most worthless extra feature of the year so far. Not only is it everyone talking about how beautiful Venice is...AGAIN, but it goes by so fast that it almost feels like they just had some extra footage and decided to throw it in here. Completely unnecessary.

Alternate Animated Title Sequence (2:13 min) HD - Now this was pretty neat, I understand why it wasn't used for the opening title sequence but I didn't see any reason it couldn't have been placed as an end title sequence. Such a waste, oh well.

Outtake Reel (1:25 min) HD - It was nice to see an outtake reel from a big studio film involving its two major hitters in the mix. The only issue I had with it was that it is way too short to be worth anything.

Doesn't this look exciting?

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Final Verdict:

I don't know what else to say. I found The Tourist to be a fully competent and technically well made film. It just didn't have anything to it, nothing that made it stand out in any way, good or bad. I guarantee that you will forget it moments after watching it and never think of it ever again. For those out there that did find something to like about it the Blu-ray offers us a crisp and clean picture with some solid audio as well. The extra features are lacking and seem more like a travel brochure for Venice than anything resembling any sort of behind the scenes for the film. If you like the two stars then it is a solid rental, just don't go in hoping to love it and you might be OK.

RENT IT


Blu-ray                              DVD
The Tourist (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo)      The Tourist
    

Reactions:

2 comments:

Jane Cane said...

This is one of my most favorite Johnny Depp movies! As always, his acting was superb. The twist was kind of expected though.

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holiday park said...

I've watched this movie and I say that this is really a good once.

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