|Image courtesy of the BBC
Dornan plays an Irish man who, while visiting Australia, is run off the road by a pickup truck seemingly without reason. When he wakes up in the hospital, he’s unable to remember his own name or any details about his life. What becomes abundantly clear is that someone is after The Man, trying to get revenge for something The Man did in his mysterious past.
On the surface, there might not be much to it, but through its easy six-episode run, The Tourist manages to not only be an extremely interesting puzzle, but also a darkly funny and tension-fueled drama. The limited amount of characters are developed very nicely, and everyone’s a lot of fun to watch. The only person I never felt strong feelings about was, ironically, Jamie Dornan’s character, even though we learn more about him as the series progresses. There’s always the option of going deeper into the enigmatic lead character, but that might mean sidelining some others; I respect the series’ methodology and functionality when it comes to all the major players.
The Man eventually forms a relationship with Probationary Constable Helen Chambers (Danielle Macdonald), and together they drive around Australia while being pursued by a textbook foreign bad guy (oddly played by an Aussie, Alex Dimitriades), his wannabe cowboy henchman (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) and a corrupt police detective (Damon Herriman). Dornan is having a hell of a time, and is certainly giving the greatest performance of his career so far. While I certainly hope he outdoes himself in the future, I have a feeling The Tourist will fly under the radar and will be referred to years later as one of his best.
Amnesia is an easy story trick, giving the audience a mystery to figure out. The Tourist doesn’t provide many clues and leaves most of the revelations to conveniently-timed expositional flashbacks, but later in the series, as we learn more about The Man, he becomes a more sympathetic character, while simultaneously ebbing in the opposite direction. If you could forget all the bad parts of yourself and you have the opportunity to remember, would you? Would you want to face the horrible things you might have done?
What I really fell in love with about The Tourist is the fact that it’s not even ashamed to be a western. Its opening theme tells you everything you need to know, and when presented with the instant appeal of Australia and its gorgeous setting (plus its endemic quirks — “the kangaroos will run towards the headlights in the dark”) it creates a story with such fun, if not entirely unique, flair.
The Tourist is definitely something we’ve seen before, but it handles its clichés very effectively. It manages to be self-aware while not being annoyingly meta, and is darkly funny on top of all that. With each episode, The Tourist matches your satiation for answers to the mystery with even more questions — up until the end, and everything is made crystal clear.
“Beware the fury of a patient man.”
The Tourist is now streaming on HBO Max.