The Tourist, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 104 mins (12A)
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (3D), Michael Apted, 115 mins (PG)
Even the beauty of Venice can't prod this slow, meandering tourist into action
Sunday 12 December 2010
When we first see Angelina Jolie in The Tourist she's sashaying along Paris's chicest boulevards.
She's poised, immaculately dressed and coolly self-satisfied. You could say the same about the film. It's a classy number, all right, with a lauded co-writer and director, The Lives of Others' Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, and two co-writers, Christopher McQuarrie and Julian Fellowes, who both have cupboards full of awards. It's set in Venice's plushest hotels and grandest ballrooms; it has a shimmering orchestral score, and the cast is so good-looking that the film's idea of an ordinary Joe is Johnny Depp. But, like Jolie, The Tourist is too focused on being elegant to move any faster than walking pace.
This languorous tempo is all the more problematic considering that Jolie is being pursued by the police. A Scotland Yard detective (Paul Bettany) hopes she'll lead him to her lover, a mysterious master thief, and so, Jolie picks up a widowed maths teacher, Depp, on the train from Paris to Venice, the idea being that Bettany will mistake him for Britain's Most Wanted. The dumbstruck Depp is happy to go along with whatever Jolie suggests, even if it endangers his life.
The Tourist is an old-fashioned, romantic tribute to the glamorous thrillers that Cary Grant starred in 50 years ago. And now that action movies are so frenzied, there's something to be said for a film that keeps us waiting so long for a shot to be fired. But if you strip off the blankets of European finery, The Tourist is a daft crime romp involving gangsters, rooftop chases and ridiculous plot twists – and that kind of movie needs pizzazz, stunts and jokes more than it needs admiring views of haute couture. The Tourist is a vehicle that was built for comfort when it should have been built for speed. It's a step up from Knight and Day, this year's other would-be Hitchcock adventure about an innocent bystander being whisked away by a gorgeous stranger. But it's more of a promenade than a caper.
Three weeks ago, I grumbled about Harry Potter's Easter egg hunt for horcruxes and deathly hallows, but J K Rowling's round-the-houses plotting is streamlined compared with the meanderings in – deep breath – The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (3D). The third film of a series based on C S Lewis's Narnia novels, it zaps the two younger Pevensie children, Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley), back to the realm of fauns and minotaurs, along with their stuck-up cousin Eustace (Son of Rambow's Will Poulter). They're then taken aboard a ship captained by Caspian (Ben Barnes), their imperialist pal from the previous film. ("The giants of the north have surrendered unconditionally," he announces.) In his newly acquired English accent – he was sort-of Spanish last time – he tells them that the Narnians are under threat, yet again: this time they're being spirited away by a pale green mist. No, not a White Witch, or any other villain worthy of boos and hisses, but an adverse weather condition. The only way to defeat this dastardly pea-souper is to gather seven enchanted swords that have been scattered around a far-flung archipelago. Of course they have.
Instead of a battle between good and evil, then, what we get is an island-hopping cruise. And instead of using their own courage and ingenuity to find the swords, the heroes simply follow the directions they're given by various supernatural beings. First, there's a magician, then there's a fairy, and finally there's Aslan, the computer-generated lion who has the power to right all wrongs, but who prefers to let his beloved children suffer for a while before he steps in. If this capricious moggy is Lewis's avatar of Jesus, then you couldn't ask for a worse advertisement for Christianity.
Mind you, maybe the Pevensies don't deserve much help. Lucy is a narcissist, and Edmund keeps moaning that he's not getting the forelock-tugging deference that he's decided he merits. How feeble must the people of Narnia be if they turn to these posh pipsqueaks from Earth every time they get in trouble?
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