The critics tore this one apart. Even Golden Globes host Ricky Gervais mocked the film at the award ceremony with nominees Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp sitting right there. Cruel! I came late to this film and while I could see that it was not of the quality of what could be expected from Oscar winner and nominee Angelina Jolie, Oscar nominee Johnny Depp and Oscar winner (for Best Foreign Language Film) Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, it really wasn’t as bad as all that. Give it a chance and you’ll see what they were trying (key word) to accomplish.
In a café in Paris, a woman (Angelina Jolie – Salt, Wanted) sits down and reads a telegram that she just received. She is being monitored the whole time. The telegram is from her lover Alexander Pearce, who tells her to take the train to Venice. While on the train she is to find a man of the same height and build as him and get to know him. After reading it she burns it then gets up to leave. This causes a flurry of action from the people monitoring her. Elise obviously knows she is being followed.
Frank (Johnny Depp – Pirates of the Caribbean, Blow) is a mild-mannered American professor who is on vacation in Italy. He is on the train to Venice when the very beautiful Elise sits opposite him and starts a conversation. Elise suggests to Frank that he ask her to have dinner with him. He does, after some prodding, and they do. Once in Venice they run into each other again and she invites him to her hotel. Of course, he goes.
In Venice even the very naïve Frank begins to realize there is much more going on than simple flirtation. He believes they are being followed and when he is shot at Frank understands that both his and Elise’s lives are in danger.
Elise admits to Frank that all this is happening because she has made Scotland Yard and the Russian mob believe that he is Alexander Pearce. Scotland Yard wants him for the crime he committed (embezzlement) and the Russian mob wants him because Pearce stole millions from them. He began his time in Italy as a tourist, but now Frank is a man on the run.
Anytime you get stars as big as Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie into the same picture expectations are elevated. You could almost never live up to them. While I will not go to the mat defending this picture it really isn’t as bad as all that. You could see how they were trying to make an old fashioned romantic thriller. “Charade” this is not. But while they weren’t always successful it wasn’t abysmal either.
Surprisingly there is zero chemistry between Depp and Jolie. I don’t know if it was because he has totally eliminated himself from the romantic leading man category due to his turns as Jack Sparrow, Willy Wonka, the Mad Hatter, and Sweeney Todd. I only see him as bizarre and not longer “normal”. He has typecast himself in an odd sort of way. In most of his scenes, except for the comical escaping in his pyjamas sequence, he just seems like he doesn’t know what to do and is feeling awkward. It almost as if he is detached from the goings on around him. Not good. It doesn’t give Jolie anything to play off of, so she is a woman in the middle of an ocean without a paddle.
The film flits from romance to action and on to mystery without really doing any of the genres justice. Multiple genres in one film is not the problem. Rather doing each poorly is. I didn’t lose interest, but I wasn’t really invested in what was going on either.
On the plus side, the film could be used as a travel advertisement for Venice. It is gorgeous. As a backdrop with all the historical buildings, high ceilinged rooms and canals it is great. The city truly adds an element to this type of story that not many others in the world could have. It is a city that slightly decaying yet still retains an older kind of beauty.
-Previews of Soul Surfer, How Do You Know, Inside Job, Country Strong
-A Gala Affair
-Action in Venice
-Bringing Glamour Back
-Tourist Destination – Travel the Canals of Venice
-Alternate Animated Title Sequence