FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE YET TO SEE THE TOURIST, THIS IS A NON-SPOILER REVIEW.
The new 6 episode limited series The Tourist is a hard egg to crack in terms of tone. This Australian co-production is at once a breakneck, pulpy mystery thriller with shocking moments of unexpected violence. And an absurdist dark comedy with a constant undercurrent of dry wit. It’s a difficult balance to try and pull off. Now, it might not work for a lot of stateside audiences… Especially since the humor might well go right over their heads. I have to admit that some of it did for me, as well, especially when it came to certain native slang being used.
The 2021 Danish film with Mads Mikkelsen, Riders of Justice, is the only comparison that comes to mind when I think of this strange concoction of tones… And how it can be pulled off to incredible effect with the right creative team behind it. And luckily, I believe The Tourist had just the right people to bring this story to life.
WHAT IS THE TOURIST ALL ABOUT?
The series follows a man (Jamie Dornan) who is chased down by a semi-truck and gets in a horrible car accident. He awakes to realize that he has no memory of who he is… And why he is even in the Australian outback. The man sets out to uncover his past, but soon realizes that he was involved in something sinister as there are a slew of men who want him dead. And not only that, there is a man who needs his help… Who has been buried underground and left for dead. He is accompanied on his journey by a probation constable (Danielle MacDonald) who wants to prove her worth and a waitress (Shalom Brune-Franklin) who has some nefarious secrets of her own.
HOW IS THE PACING AND CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT?
One thing that I truly appreciate about this limited series is that it takes full advantage of every second of screen time. There is no fat that could be trimmed off of The Tourist’s six episodes. The series is filled to the brim with not just explosive action scenes and intriguing mystery, but also some truly effective small intimate moments that leave a huge impact. Each character is given their time for development and to leave a mark, allowing the audience to go on a journey with each and every one of them. It’s also fascinating as an audience to try and decipher which one of these characters is good or bad. Most of them inhabit this Grey area which leaves it up to you to decide if you belong on their team or not.
Another thing I must commend The Tourist on, is its pacing. This is an adrenaline-fueled ride from the very first car chase scene and it very rarely lets up. Even when these quieter scenes of character development are taking place, they are well warranted to give you time to take a breath. The underlying mystery of who this man is and what he is capable of, is constantly lingering in every frame of these episodes… which provides a nerve-wracking tension that you could cut with a knife. Add in that sly wit that I was talking about before, and you have a series that is constantly operating on so many different levels that it gives you no chance to be bored.
HOW IS THE CAST, INCLUDING JAMIE DORNAN?
The cast here is also simply phenomenal, led by Jamie Dornan who has never been better. His performance takes us on a rollercoaster ride along with his character, starting out as a slightly confused, mysterious figure, but then turning in to a ferocious and unpredictable protagonist. That blurred line of good and evil is always apparent in Dornan’s performance, which makes the whole series work. You root for this man because at times he can be kind and he is naturally charismatic, but you don’t for one second trust him at the same time. It’s incredible work and I am so happy to see Dornan continue to prove that he is no one-trick-pony.
The rest of the ensemble is just as great. Danielle MacDonald who has shined in mostly comedic roles to date… Is able to not just show off her humor here, but also give an empowering performance. She lights up every scene she is in. And USA-born, but Iceland native Olafur Dari Ollafson’s Billy is a tour-de-force achievement in villainy. His sadistic, sociopathic cowboy with a random pension for admiring people’s work gives Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigur from No Country For Old Men… a run for his money.
I honestly could go on and on about all of the impressive aspects of The Tourist, from its gorgeous cinematography of desolation, to it’s spine-tingling score from Dominik Scherrer and its brilliant script that is able to handle all of these tones so expertly. But, I won’t talk your ear off, just know going in to this series, that you are in store for some first-rate work.
DOES THE TOURIST HAVE ANY ISSUES?
If I have any issues with the show, it’s that the first three episodes are so damn good, that the final three feel a bit weaker in comparison. With the beginning of the show, every scene feels extremely unexpected… there’s so many explosive moments of action and violence, there’s red herrings, double-crosses, crazy revelations… it feels as if The Tourist continues to one-up itself over and over again. Until it sort of plateaus, around the fourth episode. And don’t get me wrong, you’ve gone so high already that this plateau is basically in the stratosphere… but, still, I felt as if there was a point where the series chugged along until its conclusion.
The show also goes into surrealist territory in the later episodes and that material didn’t especially work for me. I get where the showrunners were going with it and it’s very smart writing, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea.
HOW IS THE FINALE?
Luckily, it all ends with a haunting finale that concluded The Tourist pretty much perfectly, on my opinion. I really am grateful that HBO Max is bringing this limited series to the states. Because even though I know it’s not going to work for some viewers… if you are up for something that toys with tone in unexpected ways, that subverts expectations and is just a little bit different than what you’re used to when it comes to thrillers… then this is must-watch television.
All 6 episodes of The Tourist premiere on HBO Max March 3rd, 2022.
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