If memory is a path you can travel in your mind, jumping forwards and backwards through time, then the protagonist of The Tourist is about to go off-road, both literally and metaphorically speaking. His car is about to perform a series of summersaults before he ends up finding himself slap bang in the middle of nowhere in the Australian outback. We see the face of Jamie Dornan, protagonist of this new series recently premiered on HBO Max, lying unconscious and bloodied on the steering wheel, after what obviously hasn’t been an accident of course, because then, this wouldn’t be a thriller. No, he’s been rear-ended by a huge truck that began tailgating him, soon becoming a savage persecution before finally ending up running his car off the road and thrashing it. But, we never get a glimpse of the truck driver’s face, whose identity remains an enigma. And so, that’s how this series shamelessly opens by emulating the first pages of the script from Richard Matheson’s Duel that Steven Spielberg brought to the small screen in 1971, unapologetically using the premise as the starting point of a story that plays with the identities of the characters, but not only that of the murderous truck driver, but also the protagonist, who wakes up in a hospital somewhere to discover that he’s suffering from amnesia and hasn’t a clue who he is.
He doesn’t know what his name is, what he’s doing there, and can’t even remember the accident. He’s become a blank page. What he will soon discover is that someone is trying to kill him, here The Tourist lays out its intentions clearly from the get-go, as we follow the fate of our protagonist in the subsequent episodes, and his journey to recover his memory, filling in the gaps between memories that appear as flashes, while he tries to make sure the people who want him dead, don’t get a chance to finish the job. Although the storyline itself is far from original, we’ve seen similar settings on more than one occasion, what does make The Tourist unique is the treatment, beginning with a gallery of bizarre and extravagant characters Dornan meets in the Australian outback, giving the mini-series a sense of dark comedy gives it a certain Fargo-esque feel. Swap the snowy landscapes for dusty deserts and leave a little room for scenes of everyday happening interlaced with the thriller, and you’ll get an idea of what’s in store for you in this series that has much more personality than it appears.
Jamie Dornan switches effortlessly between the two registers the series demands, from thriller to comedy, a strong point and flexibility shared by many of the actors who accompany him, including Damon Herriman (Quarry) and Ólafur Darri Ólafsson (The Minister), two actors who often play eccentric characters and you can tell they enjoy it, especially our Icelandic friend. Other cast members offer more conventional performances, such as Danielle Macdonald (Unbelievable), who plays the tireless detective in charge of the hit-and-run case, and who doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of our characters. Nevertheless, the relationship between the two becomes crucial anchoring to keep the series grounded as it soon becomes excessively entangled in bizarre sub-plots, taking into account the simplicity of the starting point. This tandem manages to return the series to the theme of identity and abandon the rugged terrain to get the car back on the road.