By Charlie Roberts, Third Year, Civil Engineering
The Tourist has a relatively simple opening premise: a man (Jamie Dornan) loses all his memory in a car crash and has to uncover his past. What immediately leaps to mind is Jason Bourne, and although quite different tonally, there are similarities, as both of them have to deal with the double whammy of not only being hunted but also while finding out who they are and why someone wants them dead.
This sort of premise works well, as we, the viewer, start the series with the same amount of knowledge as the protagonist. We see this idea used in lots of TV series and films as a means of dealing with exposition, where we often follow a character joining a new group or organisation, and we learn things as they are explained to them.
More specifically with the premise of memory loss, it’s ripe for twists and turns, and these are brilliantly abundant in The Tourist. Having our main character - someone who doesn’t even know their own identity – as the only person we can really trust gives us an unreliable narrator to traverse this new world with. Akin to Christopher Nolan’s early film Memento (2000), we see our protagonist moving forward with the present while trying to work backwards through the past.
The action is set in small-town Australia, and the scorching heat of the outback permeates every scene. We join ‘The Man,’ as he’s listed in the cast, on a journey through this landscape, as well as following an eclectic mix of characters whose narratives intertwine. He finds help in the form of rookie police officer Helen (Danielle Macdonald), whose genuine kindness seems in contrast with everyone else’s hidden agendas. She is engaged to a psychologically manipulative man who is obsessed with the two of them slimming down for their wedding and who tries to pull her away from her work just as it piques her interest.
Many of the themes covered are difficult viewing, but this is often contrasted with the humour of the characters, and Dornan hits this balance perfectly: struggling with his loss of self but also seeing the irony in things. Moments of extreme violence become almost comical when juxtaposed by upbeat music. This style evokes Tarantino, especially with the outback giving the aesthetic of a western, with the visuals often appearing hyperreal.
There’s a certain eccentricity to the people and the place: repeated warnings about driving at night because of kangaroos chasing headlights conveys the comical strangeness that our protagonist, a Northern Irishman, experiences abroad in Australia.
We’re always prone to being sympathetic to the characters that a story follows and spends time with, and whatever Dornan’s man finds out, you can’t help but stay on his side. This is partly because he’s a likeable character but also because it’s as if he’s started afresh after losing his memory.
Him before is a different person to him now. However, he still has to come to terms with his previous life, and while ignorance of a dark past would seem to be bliss, curiosity and a yearning for the truth gets the better of things.
The big question posed is whether a person can really change. The Tourist doesn’t give a clear answer, and although Dornan’s character shows you can’t escape your past, as Helen tells him: it’s what you choose to do now that matters.
Featured Image: IMDB
Did you enjoy the wild trip that is The Tourist?