2 Stars – Troubling
If you like Angelina Jolie and think she is beautiful, then “The Tourist” is for you. You will see Angelina in diverse light, in revealing gowns, in seductive poses - all with an allure that is the centerpiece of this romantic mystery. The actor with whom she is paired is Johnny Depp, whose skill as an actor is what makes the film work – both as a romance and as a mystery.
Written and directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck with the assistance of Christopher McQuarrie (Usual Suspects), the plot is simple. Elise Clifton-Ward (Angelina) is the girlfriend of a master thief who is being sought both by the government and by the criminal from whom he stole over two billion dollars. Believing that he will make contact with her, they have her under twenty-four hour surveillance. When contact is made, it is then that Elise chooses a random tourist, Frank Tupelo (Depp) to distract both police and criminals. What occurs then is a classic mystery.
The moral message of the film rests in Elise’s belief that every individual is a mixture of good and bad, and that you have to accept both in the people you love. This willingness to accept the criminal side of her boyfriend puts her in mortal danger, yet his good side is working to keep her safe. Symbolized by a figure looking in two directions, her belief ignores both morality and justice in determining the true nature of a person’s character.
A second message with deep theological implication is communicated by the master criminal Reginald Shaw (Steven Berkoff). He explains that when his billions were stolen, he was robbed of something for which he paid an infinite price: his soul. Though the other criminals laugh at what they think is a joke, Shaw clearly understands that his decision to indulge the evil side of himself has a profound cost.
“The Tourist” is a beautifully photographed film that presents a troubling morality that confuses how a person deals with the evil within and without. Evil need not be accepted as an inevitable part of us, but rather confessed as a destructive force we need to resist. Although love is portrayed as a glue that can hold people together, the film ignores the accountability that is also a part of love as it does not excuse or accept evil. Love brings out the best that is in us individually and collectively when it is just and true. But that is a truth this film undermines.
Discussion for those who have seen this film:
1. Do you believe that Elise knew the truth about Frank? At what point in the film did you know?
2. The complexity of Alexander Pierce’s plan puts Elise in mortal danger. Do you believe real love would do this to the person he or she loved?
3. It is the nature of humanity to struggle with our own dualistic desires. Alexander Solzhenitsyn explains that “The line between good and evil runs through each heart.” How do you deal with that in your own life?