Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Tourist

Genre: Thriller
Premise: An American tourist is roped in by a mysterious woman who uses him as bait to find her lost lover.
About: The Tourist is the project Tom Cruise was attached to but ditched in favor of Wichita. Once he left, the younger, beefier, and Australianer Sam Worthington took his place. Worthington, best known for landing the lead role in James Cameron's smurf adaptation, Avatar, was also up for the part of James Bond, ultimately won by Daniel Craig. Julian Fellows is the Oscar winning screenwriter of Gosford Park. The Tourist will be produced by Roger Birnbaum, Gary Barber and Jonathan Glickman. It is a remake of a recent French film.
Writer: Julian Fellows (revisions by William Wheeler – based on “Anthony Zimmer” by Jerome Salle. Current revisions by Jeffrey Nachmanoff. Ernest Hemingway, Bill Cosby, and a bucket of elves are also reported to have worked on the script).
Details: 103 pages (June 9, 2008 draft)

Sam Worthington is a bit of a curiosity at this point. Because of the longstanding tradition of Australian hunks who have been anointed super-stardom here in the states, whenever a new one comes along we blindly trust the Varieties and the Entertainment Weeklys when they tell us they're the real deal. “This is the next Mel Gibson," they say. And we shrug our shoulders and go, "All right. You're the boss." But what's really going on here? When Sam Worthington signs on for The Tourist and Clash of the Titans and Last Night (a Scriptshadow Top 25 script), is it because he's actually a good actor? Or is there something else at play?

Oh, there's something else all right. It's called 70 million dollars worth of advertising plastering his face all over the world this winter. These movies aren't signing this guy on ability. They're signing him on bank-ability. By the time their movie comes out, the average schmoe will know Sam Worthington's name and face better than they know their own daughter. Fuck you little Julie, Sam Worthington's movie is opening this weekend! "Who's Sam Worthington daddy?" "Hell if I know. He was in the Smurf's remake!"

You may remember this with other Australian demi-gods like Hugh Jackman, Eric Bana, and the late Heath Ledger. Which begs the question: What the hell is wrong with us Americans?? Are we not sexy enough? Do we not possess the requisite beefiness factor to be considered stud material? Hell, I love Australia. But do we really need to take a 24 hour plane ride to find our next movie star? Thank god for Will Smith, right?

Anyway, whether we approve or not, Worthington is the latest implant and boy is he taking advantage of it. While not everyone watched Terminator Salvation (was that even a Terminator movie?), you can't discount Cameron's adaptation of the smurf franchise this winter. At the very least it'll be watchable. But will Worthington be Michael Biene? (that's Kyle Reese from the first Terminator film if you're not paying attention) or will he be the next Sigorney Weaver?

The Tourist is about a man so secret, not even his best friends know what he looks like (he's had extensive plastic surgery to keep his identity a mystery). And about a woman so gorgeous, men fall in love with her at just a glance. The man’s name is Alexander, and he seems to have stolen 744 million dollars from the U.S. government in unpaid taxes (Didn’t George Lucas teach us never to base our stories on taxes?). For that reason, since the story is set in Europe, the British government, in cooperation with the American government, very much wants to put an end to elusive Alexander's freedom. But how do you catch a man when you don’t know what he looks like?? The key is the beautiful woman I just mentioned, Charlize Theron's Cara. The two used to be an item but were split up when she was captured and he escaped. Out of jail for the first time, it’s assumed that Alexander will try to contact Cara. So a team led by John Ackerman (shamelessly described as a British “Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive”) is tailing her, waiting for her to lead him to the pot of gold.

Speaking of pot of gold. Hubba hubba.

So where the hell is Sam Worthington in all this? Did he catch the last Quantas flight back to Melbourne? No, actually Worthington plays Frank Taylor, an American tourist who somehow gets wrapped up in all this nonsense. You see the clever Alexander sends a message to Cara telling her to get on a train and find someone of similar build to travel with. This way, the police will assume that the man is Alexander, blow his brains out, and Cara can slip off to rendezvous with the real Alexander, living happily ever after.

So innocent Frank cannot believe his good fortune when Cara approaches him on the train. It never occurs to him that the hottest woman in the world hitting on him might be the least bit suspicious. Nope, it doesn't matter if you're the Elephant Man. If a beautiful woman approaches you, the male ego simply assumes it's a result of his indescribable inner awesomeness. The scenes where Cara playfully flirts with Frank are some of the best in the script. From the Shanghai Express to Venice, it’s like a big budget Before Sunrise as the two connect on several levels, or so Frank assumes. But no sooner does this dream ride begin than it all comes crashing down, like a game of jenga after a dozen bud lights. Cara disappears out of Frank's life and it’s then that we learn that the police aren’t the only ones looking for Alexander. Mr. Nip/Tuck himself apparently double-crossed a very eccentric Russian mobster named Demidov – who wants Alexander Demi-dead. Or all the way dead.

After a chase so extensive it makes Jason Bourne look like he's stuck in a wheelchair, Frank escapes the Vodka Express, barely intact. Sir Tommy Lee Jones then fills him in on the details. Who Cara *really* is and where they think she’ll find the elusive Alexander. I was a little confused as to why the police would tell a random guy all their deepest secrets about an international top secret case that's been going on for a decade but whatever. You go with it. Needless to say we eventually learn that not everything is as it seems. But is it ever?

The Tourist isn't bad by any stretch of the imagination. But it certainly isn't breaking any new ground. I don't know if you figured out who Alexander was, but I sure page 10! Granted I'm super-sleuther read-every-script-in-the-world, sizing up every usual suspect the second they hit the screen. But in a script that sort of telegraphs its ultra-snazzy twist in the first act, I wonder if people won't be leaving this movie ultra-disappointed.

It's not a total loss. The journey is fun. And Cara is definitely a winning role. But I see why Cruise left the film. For the majority of the movie, Frank is more passive than Ghandi. And even as he tries to turn the table in the end and become super-spy 009, you're sitting there thinking, "Aren't you a little late to the game my faux-American friend?" You can decide for yourself though. I'll certainly be interested in hearing your thoughts.

[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] barely kept my interest
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: I’d really really avoid comparing any of your characters to one of the all time great characters in cinema. Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive is cinematic royalty. As soon as Fellows described him as such, the movie lost a considerable amount of its originality. It just shows a lack of imagination on the writer’s end. You should always try to create unique characters that no one’s ever seen before, especially in your antagonists. Fellows is lucky he's won an Oscar. Because a first-timer would get killed for pulling something like this.