The Tourist: Jamie Dornan in another British drama ‘does’ Ireland? Yes, our hearts are sinking

Television: Jamie Dornan’s glare of Herculean confusion dominates a cooked up Tarantino Does the Quiet Man

Jamie Dornan is an international movie star and former Hugo Boss and Calvin Klein model. But the Holywood, Co Down, actor’s true talent may be his ability to look baffled regardless of the circumstances. He was cosmically vexed throughout the 50 Shades of Grey films, growing more discombobulated the fewer items of clothing he wore. He manages to stay fully attired throughout most of season two of The Tourist (BBC One, New Year’s Day, 9pm) but there it is again – that glare of Herculean confusion.

The Tourist series one was a fun memory-loss thriller set in the Australian outback. Imagine Christopher Nolan’s Memento crossed with Mad Max’s calmer moments. For the follow-up, Dornan was keen to shoot closer to home to be with his family, and the action largely takes place in what appears to be Wicklow.

Another British drama “does” Ireland? Yes, all our hearts are sinking. But it’s okay – The Tourist is nowhere near as toe-curling as last year’s The Woman in the Wall, which set out to investigate the evils of the mother and baby homes only to end up as cack-handed tribute to D’Unbelievables.

The Tourist is unbelievable in its own way. It is, in fact, merrily unhinged – and yet never less than addictive in its silliness. By the end of episode one, I feel I’m chomping a bottomless bag of salt and vinegar crisps. I’m not sure it’s good for me – but I want to keep munching.


The “Oirish” stuff isn’t great. Co Antrim actor Conor MacNeill plays a slowpoke rural garda who doesn’t know how to do his job, yet is a kindly soul once you get past the peasant idiocy. There is also the suggestion that Ireland is in the dark ages technologically: one scene involves a character placing a call on a rotary phone. There is certainly no urban bustle: the milieu is cosy crime in the British hinterland. It’s Ireland, but it might as well be Yorkshire/Wales/Cornwall/Scotland ...

Get past that – and you may have to take a deep breath once or twice – and it’s watchable. As pointed out, Dornan is a one-trick actor. But it’s a good trick – the way he looks entirely mystified by whatever life throws at him.

In this case, life has conspired to put his character, Elliot, in contact with shadowy figures from his past. He becomes aware of these connections travelling by train across Australia with girlfriend Helen (Danielle Macdonald) from series one. A contact from Ireland has reached out, and they have arranged to meet. But then, waiting outside a cafe in (what looks like) Wicklow, attackers bundle him into the back of a car with UK-reg plates and take him off to a torture dungeon.

There are challenges for Helen, too. When the gardaí finally arrive, she has to show MacNeill’s oafish Det Slater how to do his job. Then Olwen Fouéré enters the frame as Eliot’s mother. She squares off with the gardaí and later kills a ne’er do well with a knife to the forehead. She’s terrifying.

Mammy Maniac isn’t afraid of Det Slater, though maybe she should be. Later, we see that he is in a relationship with a sex doll, whom he keeps in a studio apartment downstairs in his house.

That surreal flourish is a trademark touch of Tourist writers Harry and Jack Williams, whose speciality is overheated thrillers set in the UK. They’ve transplanted that formula to the old country and cooked up a sort of Tarantino Does the Quiet Man. It’s very watchable – and fingers crossed that part one is where it gets the Father Ted-isms out of its system.