A mysterious man, a local policewoman and a somewhat absurd plot, all set against the backdrop of desert Australia. “Tourist” plays with criminal schemes and it is good for him.
Do you also feel tired of gloomy crime stories, where only the problems of the main characters are as dark as the landscapes? “Turysta”, a 6-episode series from the BBC, may be a good antidote to them. The latest work of the brothers Harry and Jack Williams (“The Missing”, “Baptiste”) combines a bloody and twisted plot with expressive characters and a solid portion of not only black humor, and the result is pulp entertainment that avoids the duplication of genre tropes, and at the same time, he still treats himself and the viewer quite seriously.
Tourist is a series thriller with a hint of absurdity
It all starts somewhere in the Australian Outback. A nameless man (Jamie Dornan, “The Fall”), whose origins only reveal an Irish accent, stops at a gas station in the middle of nowhere. After a short toilet break, he returns to the car, but is no longer alone on the road. A moment later, we witness events that in many stories could be an emotional culmination, but here they are only an introduction, because the actual story follows them right after them – when our hero wakes up in the hospital, not remembering what his name is, what he does or any other details from your past.
Banality? And what! The main character’s amnesia as the main plot lever is, after all, a trick straight from the soap opera, but the Williams brothers do not care about it for a moment. On the contrary, from the moment of setting up the shares, the twists only multiply, and the history is by no means less stretched by them. It does not matter, however, at least as long as “The Tourist” is a pleasure to watch, which is not a problem until the last seconds.
The merit, however, is not so much the classic in this case construction of the script (the protagonist follows his past, discovering new secrets), but its quality. Knowing that they are unlikely to invent gunpowder with twists and turns, the creators set out to build a specific atmosphere and characters, creating a world different than is usually found in such stories. From the color palette in which, instead of the dark ones, the almost bright colors of the desert dominate, through the frequent contrasting of the content with the weight of the genre, to the unusual foreground and background characters.
A tourist, not only Jamie Dornan without memory
Contrary to appearances, the most important one does not stand out among them the most, although the stranger lacks anything and I do not mean Jamie Dornan’s beauty or his thick beard. These advantages are undeniable, but even more important that the hero gives the impression of a really ordinary guy, as surprised by the whole situation as we are. More lost than determined to discover the truth, and not so much knowing himself as re-forming himself. If the show’s amnesia may seem plausible at all, then Dornan (who still gets too few occasions to be reminded that he is a serious actor) and the writers probably did everything they could about it.
However, while depriving the main character of his memory severely limits the possibilities of his characterization, “The Tourist” makes up for it in this respect thanks to other characters. Two women in particular – local policewoman Helen Chambers (Danielle Macdonald, “Unbelievable”) and one Luci Miller (Shalom Brune-Franklin, “Line of Duty”). The first is a young constable on a trial period, for whom the case of an anonymous with amnesia is the most serious challenge in the career of an ordinary curb, the second is a waitress who accidentally meets and helps our hero.
At least we know that much at the beginning, but as I mentioned, there are plenty of twists here, as well as characters who hide one, two or ten secrets, so things get complicated quickly. Importantly, however, Helen and Luci do not only function here in the role of lockpicks that allow you to move the action forward. Both have quite rich and, especially in the case of the former, non-obvious characteristics.
The lovable policewoman, whose everyday life revolves around speeding tickets, Ethan’s terrible fiancé (Greg Larsen) and trying to lose a few kilos, is not only a natural heiress of Marge Gunderson and Molly Solverson from “Fargo”. He is also a character that cannot be disliked out of hand, and whom you cheer on even more than the main character. It is Helen who is the natural heart of history, a bastion of normality in an often distant world and a moral center of gravity for a stranger man, with whom she creates a duo as surprising as well-coordinated (and funny!).
Tourist is a mix of the Coen brothers, Pulp Fiction and Australia
Yes, funny, because what also distinguishes “The Tourist” from the criminal competition is the fact that while remaining within the genre, he can have a great time with it. At times in a surreal and brutal way (which evokes further associations with the work of the Coen brothers), at other times 100% ironic, and sometimes simply charming, as only British comedies about small town inhabitants and their quirks can do. Here they have just been moved to the other side of the world, so don’t be surprised when in the middle of dramatic events you hear another warning about driving in the dark, because the light of cars attracts
And that’s not all, because “Tourist” has a lot of attractions. There is a grotesque Australian cowboy in a red hat (which is successfully portrayed by Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, known from “The Trap”), and a real detective (Damon Herriman, “Mindhunter”). There are strong LSD trips, local fauna caught in unambiguous situations, and scenes taken alive from Quentin Tarantino’s films. They are absolutely delightful and mesmerizing desert shots. Finally, they are twists so twisted that after some time you no longer pay attention to their meaning, just waiting for what the creators will come up with.
You could argue that six hours is too long, that this story would work better as a movie, and that especially in the second half of the season it becomes all too abstract. This, however, is his secret that by not taking himself one hundred percent seriously, the Williams brothers’ series can make when serious moments come (and they do), they appear very authentic and arouse sincere emotions. I am not absolutely sure if we need a sequel (season 2 is already on order) although not everything has been clarified so there is room for a follow-up. But I know that I will gladly return to these wastelands, and even more willingly to these heroes.
The series Tourist is available on HBO Max