Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie are two of Hollywood’s biggest stars, A-listers who owe their popularity largely to action comedies such as “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.” On Friday, the actors will sail into very different territory with “The Tourist,” an embezzlement drama with far less action and comedy than most of Depp and Jolie’s previous hits.
That kind of departure certainly isn’t unprecedented — prominent actors are forever jumping into roles that are miles from their most successful blockbusters. George Clooney, for example, moved from the “Ocean’s Eleven” movies to the art films ” Michael Clayton,” “The Men Who Stare at Goats” and “The American.” But it’s much rarer that two high-profile actors of the caliber of Depp and Jolie — both of whom have made their share of highbrow fare — make a comparable switch in the same movie, especially a pricey production like “The Tourist.”
Loosely based on the 2005 French feature “Anthony Zimmer,” “The Tourist” stars Jolie as Elise Clifton-Ward, a mysterious and impossibly elegant woman in Paris who is instructed to take a train to Venice. While en route, she approaches Depp’s shaggy math teacher Frank Tupelo, drawing him into an international plot involving the theft of $2.3 billion.
On their trail is a flummoxed British investigator ( Paul Bettany) and a vengeful crime boss ( Steven Berkoff) who aims to kill Clifton-Ward and capture Tupelo, convinced that he is actually an embezzler named Anthony Pearce.
The film, the first movie directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck since his German espionage story and feature debut “The Lives of Others” won the foreign language Oscar in 2007, unfolds at an unhurried pace, with the first bit of action coming some 45 minutes into the movie.