Monday, 12 September 2011

The Tourist Review

January 2011.

Genre: Action/Adventure/Spy/Crime/Romance.

Starring: Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Paul Bettany, Steven Berkoff and Timothy Dalton.

Running Time: 103 mins. approx.

Certificate: 12A.

Seen At: The Trafford Centre’s Odeon Cinemas.

On: Sunday, 16th January, 2011.
Picture the scene: Kevin Spacey’s Verbal Kint is walking down a street gradually dropping the pretence of being physically afflicted as his hand straightens, and his formally inward feet return to normal. We then cross-cut to a fax machine as a hand-drawn e-fit of a mythical serial killer is being printed. Suddenly, the penny drops and Kint is finally revealed as the notorious Keyser Soze. Thus ends one of the most famous and classic shockers’ ever in modern cinema, as the twist in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse finally reaches its crescendo, in 1995’s double oscar-winner, The Usual Suspects.
   Its screenwriter Christopher MacQuarie, pens this latest project from a director with the best name in the business, Florien Henkel Von Donnersmark, who burst onto the directorial scene a few years ago with flair and substance with the lives of others.
   Many of the ingredients which MacQuarie weaved in so well into Suspects are thankfully still present, (the teasing chase of cat-and-mouse for instance), but they just lack quite as much punch. In typical style again, there is a final twist, but it’s rather more damp squib than fire-in-the-hole when really, there is no surprise at all.
  But actually, none of that matters when this is so much more fun and enjoyable than Suspects. Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie are an absolute powerhouse example of Hollywood casting at its peak – casting two of the industries’ most bankable stars really works a treat.
  Depp plays Frank Tupelo, a shady and unassuming everyman who meets Jolie’s glamorous femme fatale Elise Ward on a train. A case of mistaken identity ensues as Frank is thrown into a world of intrigue, kidnap and attempted murder. Depp is clearly having fun as he jumps over rooftops and dodges bullets.
    It transpires that Elise’s ex-lover is arch criminal Alexander Pearce who owes a large sum of money to Steven Berkoff’s threateningly imposing antagonist. Frank is of course mistaken for Pearce... 
   What I loved so much about it was all the elements of both the classic, traditional old-style Hollywood caper and its glamour, captured perfectly. The handsome, relatable leading man, a stunningly beautiful temptress, and a truly magnificent setting (in this case, the picturesque gondolas and sunsets of Venice), or various Hitchcockian MaGuffins.
    John Seale’s glossy, luminescent cinematography is simply gorgeous, whether it be photographing boat chases, a ballroom sequence or Jolie in one of her many mesmeric dresses. ‘You look ravenous’ says Frank, with a twinkle in his eye, as he prepares to accompany Elise to luxurious ball. ‘Don’t you mean ravishing?’ Elise asks. ‘I do’  is Frank’s chuckled reply.
   The rich dialogue retains all the humorous wit and sparkle you’d expect from our two stars, again wonderfully reminiscent of Hollywood’s golden age.
   It’s fiendishly Hitchcockian – it is of course no accident that these two characters should first meet on a train – there is of course the obvious comparison with 1951’s wonderful Strangers On A Train, but you suspect that cast and crew were even more heavily influenced by one of my most favourite pictures by the master of suspense, the Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint 1959 classic – North By Northwest.     
    One of the most striking qualities of the film is James Newton-Howard’s pacy, conspiratorial score.  Starlight and Map of the Problematique are just two of the songs on the soundtrack, by the brilliant band, Muse, and they prove an ideal choice.
It’ll also come as little surprise to learn that the relationship between our duo is practically sizzling before too long.
    One of the best and cleverest films of the year, if only for sheer, simple entertainment value. Depp is outstanding in one of his very best roles. 

Rating: * * * *

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