Any film set mainly in Venice has an in-built appeal to audiences, and The Tourist, released four years ago, boasts excellent scenes set in that loveliest of cities, as well as a terrific cast. This is headed by Angelina Jolie as Elise Ward, and Johnny Depp as Frank Tupelo, and also includes Timothy Dalton, Steven Berkoff, and Rufus Sewell. Add to that a screenplay whose writers include Julian Fellowes and Christopher McQuarrie, and you have a sure-fire hit on your hands. Or do you?
When I watch a relatively recent film, I like to do so without knowing too much about it, so I can approach it without preconceptions. After I'd seen The Tourist, I was intrigued to find that there has been extensive debate as to whether it's a comedy, a romance or a thriller, as I too struggled to work out what kind of a film I was watching. To some extent, it doesn't matter, as long as you enjoy the film, and I did enjoy The Tourist. But I did feel that some unevenness of approach meant it wasn't quite as successful as it might have been. It was as if the film-makers couldn't make up their minds what they were creating.
The set-up is that Jolie is being watched in Paris - we gather, by British cops - because she has connections to a villain called Alexander Pierce. She receives a message from Pierce telling her to take a train to Venice, and pretend that a stranger bearing a resemblance to Pierce is the man himself. This she does, leading to an encounter with an American maths teacher played by Depp. From there, the complications increase.
There were some fun moments along the way, and some nice twists as well, although I found it hard to suspend disbelief. Berkoff plays a nasty gangster in an enjoyably over the top way, but some of the tension depends on the stupidity of one of the cops (Paul Bettany) and I found this hard to swallow. The Tourist has received very mixed reviews, but as long as one expects from it nothing more than pleasing light entertainment, I don't think it disappoints. Not a classic, but not a bad way to spend a relaxing hundred minutes.