"The tourist" causes a stir, but does not take itself too seriously

LONDON — After his car is thrown off the road by a mysterious driver in a lorry, a Northern Irishman wakes up in a hospital in outback A...


LONDON — After his car is thrown off the road by a mysterious driver in a lorry, a Northern Irishman wakes up in a hospital in outback Australia with no memory of who he is. “I keep telling myself to try to remember,” he tells the policeman who comes to take his statement, “but it’s like trying to get robbed.”

It’s the start of “The Tourist,” a six-episode limited series that premieres Thursday on HBO Max. After the man, played by Jamie Dornan (“Belfast“), leaves the hospital, it becomes clear that he was involved in dark matters in his former life, and someone definitely wants him dead.

The opening premise would suggest a typical thriller. Memory loss is a familiar plot device for the genre (see: “Memento”, “The Bourne Identity” et al). “The Tourist”, which first aired on the BBC in Britain this year, is similar in form to the broadcaster’s other tense and tight shows, such as “The night manager” and “Bodyguard.”

Unlike those offerings, “The Tourist” adds more quirky humor and touches of surrealism to a gripping central plot that still features car chases, gunfights, and international crime outfits.

When he first read the script, Dornan found it surprising, he said in a recent interview. “Every time I thought it was a thing, or knew where it was going, it was changed,” he said. “It was sometimes very subtle, and sometimes it was a big blow to the head.”

As the episodes unfold, rooting for the confused and sympathetic character becomes a little more complicated. In a recent interview, Dornan said that when he first read the script, he wondered if the audience would always be on the man’s side, “looking for the answers when they find out what some of the answers”.

Dornan’s character is joined in his quest for answers by hospital policewoman Helen Chambers (Danielle Macdonald), who is on his first assignment off traffic duty. She feels oddly compelled to help the man, who also finds help from Luci Miller (Shalom Brune-Franklin), a waitress he meets at a cafe.

The show’s setting in small-town Australia helps provide comic relief through characters like an unhappy but well-meaning rookie policeman and the elderly owners of a bed-and-breakfast. Amid the chaos and danger, there are scenes that tip into the wholesome and heartwarming.

Helen, the police officer, is also an unlikely thriller protagonist: kind, honest, and unassuming. Macdonald sees her character as “Everywoman” on the show, she said in a recent interview. When we first meet Helen, it’s clear that she’s unhappy and underappreciated, by herself and her fiancé.

Macdonald said she spent some time understanding the character’s role in the plot. “The rest of the show is so dark and Helen was so light,” she said. “It ended up balancing out really well.”

The show’s writers and creators, brothers Jack and Harry Williams, have become known for conventional thrillers such as the Golden Globe-nominated show “missing.” “The Tourist” was born out of a desire to do something different. “It’s the kind of show we watch, it’s the kind of show we really like to do,” Jack said.

The brothers also have experience in dark-hearted TV comedies, having served as executive producers for Phoebe Waller-Bridge”Flea bag“and on Daisy Haggard”Back to life.” Their last show was therefore aimed at “closing that gap, because after doing comedies and dramas, it was a natural place for us to operate”, said Harry Williams.

They tapped Chris Sweeney, who also worked on “Back to Life”, to direct half of the series. Although he wanted to work on non-directing projects at the time, Sweeney said he was won over. “I don’t like pure thrillers, that’s not my thing, but I like things that use a device to talk about what human existence is in a playful way,” he said. in a video interview.

“The Tourist” questions not only how the past defines us, but also – through the character trajectories of the central character and Helen – the other things we rely on to construct our identities. Sweeney said he felt the script had the “personality” of movies he likes in the thriller genre, like the work of the Coen brothers. He described elements of the show as a “love letter” to these films, with scenes that evoke “There is no country for old peopleand “Out of Sight” by Steven Soderbergh.

Dornan was initially a bit concerned with the show’s genre mix. While filming in Australia, “the three of us, Shalom, Danielle and I, were all equally terrified at different times because of the comedy and the drama, and how to find the comfortable line there,” he said. he declares. “I was kind of like, are people going to know what it is, or where to hang their hat on it?”

In Britain, at least, the concerns appear to have been unfounded. When ‘The Tourist’ hit the BBC’s streaming service on New Year’s Day, he met glowing Comments and quickly became the platform third most successful dramatic opening nowadays.

Jack Williams said he thought the show resonated with audiences, in part because of its escapist quality, adding that it “doesn’t try to reflect some of the angst and the misery that everyone has known for a few years”.

In addition to delving into a mystery, viewers of “The Tourist” are transported to a stark, almost otherworldly landscape. The show was filmed at several different locations in the sprawling expanse of South Australia, where you can “point the camera anywhere and it looks amazing”, noted Harry Williams. “That said, we had to travel quite a few hours in the backcountry to get the desired effect,” he added.

The trip contributed to the filming duration of five months, a filming period which was also stretched by the ambition of the show: the opening car chase sequence was filmed over two weeks. “It was the hardest job I’ve ever done,” Dornan said. “It’s the longest job I’ve ever done.”

With the show’s success in Britain came the discussion on the possibility of a second season. The show was designed as a stand-alone mini-series, similar to the BBC’s other six-part shows. This “less is more” approach contrasts with the sprawling nature of much of American network television; Showtime’s thriller “Homeland,” for example, ran for eight seasons and 96 episodes.

Tommy Bulfin, a BBC editor, said in an email that although the broadcaster has “a tradition of doing six sets of episodes”, ultimately the practice of doing shorter productions was related to the topic. “I think the key to the success of these shows is that they’re all great examples of brilliantly crafted stories,” he said.

The Williams brothers echoed that sentiment. Thinking about the length of “The Tourist”, the story took precedence. “You kind of have to take that and the natural course that it would take and not try to do more,” Harry said. The pair wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a second season, but added that they were cautious about it.

“There is no perfect length, just like there is no perfect length for a book,” said Harry Williams. “But there is an appropriate length for a story.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: "The tourist" causes a stir, but does not take itself too seriously
"The tourist" causes a stir, but does not take itself too seriously
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