FLORIAN HENCKEL VON DONNERSMARCK
Bil’s rating (out of 5): B.
USA/France, 2010. GK Films, Spyglass Entertainment, Birnbaum/Barber, StudioCanal, Cineroma SRL, Peninsula Films, Italian Tax Credit, French Tax Credit. Screenplay by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Christopher McQuarrie, Julian Fellowes, based on the motion picture Anthony Zimmer by Jerome Salle. Cinematography by John Seale. Produced by Gary Barber, Gary Barber, Jonathan Glickman, Tim Headington, Graham King, Adam Rosenberg. Music by James Newton Howard. Production Design by Jon Hutman. Costume Design by Colleen Atwood. Film Editing by Joe Hutshing, Patricia Rommel.
Johnny Depp is an American math teacher innocently travelling through Europe who is amazed when a gorgeous British woman (Angelina Jolie) sits down beside him on a train to Venice. She is the lover of a mysterious fugitive whom police have been hunting for months, and uses Depp as a mark to throw the authorities off the trail while she travels to the romantic city in the hopes of being reunited with him. Upon their arrival, the police realize that Depp is the wrong man but the target’s gangster enemies do not, suddenly throwing this quiet tourist into a whirlwind adventure of survival as he finds himself being pursued by gunmen wherever he goes. The only trouble for the audience is that the film isn’t nearly as exciting as it sounds and moves at a wooden pace, devoid of any twists or turns and capped off with a surprise ending that is just plain ridiculous. Depp is a wonderful actor but not quite suited to the genre; where the lone-man-pursued plot requires constant, instinctive movement, he is constantly thinking and emoting, bogging down an already sluggish pace with his unnecessary consideration. Jolie fares much better, poised and confident the whole time, understanding how funny it is to be a heroine in a spy movie set on a floating city. Still, the film is a worthless washout, a silly distraction that director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck likely made to prove that after the deep, soul-stirring masterpiece The Lives Of Others earned him universal acclaim and a well-deserved Academy Award, he could be as deft with something light and fun. It’s the cinematic equivalent of multi-lettered literature professors thinking they can toss off a murder mystery without breaking a bead of sweat and have it match up to the efforts of far more seasoned authors. The director is probably also the reason why the film was able to garner such an impressive cast, including Timothy Dalton, Paul Bettany, Steven Berkoff, Raoul Bova and Rufus Sewell in one-note, thankless roles, but there’s no denying that von Donnersmarck has no idea what to do with all the elements he has assembled. It looks great, but the blindly ridiculous attitude of taking shallow things too seriously that make Hollywood movies so enjoyable is completely missing here, and the screenplay is pure garbage (which, considering it was written by the director in collusion with the Oscar winners of The Usual Suspects and Gosford Park, is a crying shame).
Golden Globe Award Nominations: Best Picture-Musical/Comedy; Best Actor-Musical/Comedy (Johnny Depp); Best Actress-Musical/Comedy (Angelina Jolie)