Making the Grades
Traveling may be good solace for the soul, but a solo trip from Paris to Venice takes on an air of intrigue for American tourist Frank Tupelo (Johnny Depp) when a beautiful and enigmatic woman (Angelina Jolie) approaches him on the train. Sitting across from him, she convinces the mystery-reading schoolteacher to put down his novel and take her to dinner. After arriving at their Italian destination, the alluring Elise Clifton-Ward also invites the traveler to come to her hotel room. (But despite her flirtatious advances, he finds himself sleeping on the couch in the luxurious accommodations rather than with her.)
The plot intensifies when Frank awakens to discover Elise has gone. In her place are two Russian thugs who threaten him with guns, accusing him of being the illusive thief Andrew Pearson. Jumping out of a hotel window, Frank escapes from the pair only to land in an Italian holding cell after accidently pushing a local policeman into the canal during his hurried departure. While in custody, he tries to convince the authorities there’s been a misunderstanding about his identity. Luckily Elise rescues Frank from his predicament. She then confesses she has set him up to be a target for a vengeful gangster (Steven Berkoff) and some Scotland Yard officers.
Regretting her part in the ruse, Elise supplies Frank with all the necessary travel items for a flight back to the Midwest. Unfortunately by this time, the Wisconsin math teacher has fallen in love with the pretty lady. Rather than leaving, he opts to stay in Italy and pursue Elise—a choice that frustrates Agent Acheson (Paul Bettany) and other law officials as Frank’s bumbling antics disrupt their sting operations.
Without taking itself too seriously, this light crime caper offers audience members (including the guy sitting next to me at the screening) plenty of reasons to engage in this story, which combines spectacular locations, strong secondary characters and a good dose of humor. Even the roles of Elise and Frank are a shift for Jolie and Depp. While Jolie plays another cool-headed operative, her part is more subtle than those she portrayed in Salt and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. And although he is still given to quirky comments, Depp is much more stable here than the delusional Captain Jack Sparrow he created in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
Yet in spite of the capricious feel, the film is best suited for adults and older teens. During an incident with a gang boss, one of his henchmen is strangled for failing to complete his assignment. Throughout the movie characters are fired on and, in some cases, killed. Those depictions, along with two strong sexual expletives and infrequent profanities, add a serious element to the plotline.
But while the film asks audiences to justify a fair amount of criminal behavior, this brief dalliance with an unsuspecting tourist and an attractive female passenger offers viewers an entertaining getaway without facing their own threat of mistaken identity.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Tourist.
Does the light-hearted approach of the movie make the depicted crimes seem less evil? Does stealing money from another criminal lessen the significance of the theft? Do you agree with the final decision of the Scotland Yard police captain?
How does this film make fun of the serious spy genre? What role does humor play in the script? In addition to the Russian henchmen, what other stereotypes does this film employ?
How is smoking portrayed in this story? Is there a "coolness" factor associated with it?