Review: Allied (2016)

Allied (2016)

Directed by: Robert Zemeckis | 124 minutes | action, drama, romance, war, thriller | Actors: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Lizzy Caplan, Matthew Goode, Jared Harris, Raffey Cassidy, Simon McBurney, Daniel Betts, Camille Cottin, August Diehl, Thierry Frémont

Have you seen the latest Brad Pitt movie? ‘Allied’? Doesn’t ring a bell? From Robert Zemeckis, the director of ‘Back to the Future’, ‘Contact’, ‘Cast Away’ and ‘Flight’? About a Canadian secret service officer who has to carry out a dangerous mission in Africa during World War II with his future wife, who may have something to hide. Nothing yet? And if we tell you that Brad may have committed adultery with his co-star, Marion Cotillard during the shooting of this movie, what would be one of the reasons for the divorce from Angelina? Yes, we already thought that…

Usually gossip in a review is unnecessary, but in this case it is telling that apart from this ‘publicity’ there is apparently hardly anything that makes ‘Allied’ startling or memorable. And that’s regrettable – and unexpected – given the talent in front of and behind the camera. The film can now safely be labeled a flop, but probably the proceeds would have been even less without the soap-like rumors about the divorce of ‘Brangelina’. As a result, some moviegoers will no doubt have become curious about the fireworks or the simmering passion between Brad and Marion (‘Barion’? ‘Bradin’?).

Unfortunately, these interested parties will have come home from a – quite literal – cold fair, because it is not exactly hot between Pitt and Cotillard, which is mainly due to Pitt. Admittedly, there are several moments in the scenario that allow for this – long stares, a romantic dance, a fake kiss between the ‘lovers’ to maintain cover, Cotillard changing clothes while Pitt ‘accidentally’ glimpses of her half-naked body – but there is no question of much chemistry or a real apotheosis.

The most disappointing – and cowardly of the director – in this sense is perhaps the chastely executed and portrayed (first) act of love by the two. After the teasing dress-up moment mentioned above, which is the inevitable prelude to an ultimate get-together, Max Vatan (Pitt) and Marianne Beauséjour (Cotillard) have one – and perhaps the only – opportunity to consume their love; right before a deadly mission and parked in a car in the desert. Finally, now they can go all out, without the prying eyes of their surroundings. Time to let the sparks fly! But no, where we previously glimpsed a breast, now the clothes remain on (at least, as long as the camera witnesses the act of love). Just starting the lovemaking, the camera is already spinning around the lovers and the car, slowly retreating as a (cgi) sandstorm blows around the car, slowly obscuring the viewer’s view. So you just have to think about the rest? If there’s anywhere to talk about functional nudity and meaningful sex flowing from the story and the emotions, it’s here. Whether it’s carelessness on the part of Zemeckis or a sign of the American double standards – showing close-up strangulation, blood, murder and manslaughter, but a breast, nipple or set of buttocks would be too shocking? – the experience of the story and involvement with the characters actually become less effective due to this scant sexual climax.

It’s true, it doesn’t all have to be shown literally, but since Pitt barely manages to show his crush in a more subtle way, at least the appeal could have been convincingly shown here. It is strange, because Pitt has shown several times in the past that he can handle all kinds of emotions as an actor. Think of his understated performance as a (too) strict, troubled father in ‘The Tree of Life’, as well as his humorous portrayal of a Nazi fighter in ‘Inglourious Basterds’ and his energetic roles in ‘Fight Club’ and ‘Snatch’ . And who can forget the intense last ten minutes of ‘Se7ven’, in which Pitt lets many emotions shoot over his face in seconds when he has the opportunity to put the serial killer to death. But almost none of that talent can be seen in ‘Allied’: it is as if his mind is not quite there. In addition, there simply seems to be less to read from his more straightened out face, possibly because of some cosmetic treatments. Otherwise, the make-up department may have been a bit over-enthusiastic. Anyway, Pitt’s usual charisma is largely absent in this film. It is not the fault of Marion Cotillard: she knows how to communicate all her feelings and moods convincingly. Whether she has to be anxious, proud, arrogant, in love, sensual or sad, it comes across perfectly.

The settings are also a problem. The central romantic plot in the first half of the film refers a lot to the film classic ‘Casablanca’; among other things by having it played in that city and at the same time. If the authenticity is hard to find, ‘Allied’ seems to be a (not too well-successful) homage to that film instead of a film with its own identity. This is not only because the chemistry leaves something to be desired, the environments and costumes are also too clinical. Much too neat and not lived through; like a movie set. It starts with the very first CGI-enriched shot of Pitt landing in the desert; totally without the feeling that this is actually happening. Even more hilarious is the scene of the birth of Marianne lying on a stretcher on a London street, bombs flying around her ears. The situation in itself is absurd – although it could of course happen that way – but the perfect, postcard-like way in which this scene is portrayed makes it downright laughable.

Fortunately, there is quite a bit of tension in the film – for example at moments when Max and Marianne have to convince German officers of their (false) identity, and when Max tries to dispel the suspicions that later rest on his wife – but it is all too little. to compensate for the weaknesses. You do sympathize with Max and Marianne in the end and hope for a good outcome, but the involvement comes too late. A pity, because such an old-fashioned romantic thriller in time of war has quite a lot of potential. With a little more conviction and fire it could certainly have turned out better.

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