Sunday 8 July 2018

Movie Review: Allied (2016)

A World War Two spy drama and romance, Allied features a stellar Marion Cotillard performance but gets everything else wrong.

It's 1942, and Canadian Wing Commander Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) parachutes into Morocco and connects with Free French resistance agent Marianne Beauséjour (Cotillard) in Casablanca. They pretend to be husband and wife but fall in love for real as they mingle with Nazi officials and plot a dangerous assassination mission. After escaping with their lives they relocate to London and get married, and one year later their baby Anna is born during a German bombing raid.

One year further on, Max receives the shocking news from British intelligence services that Marianne is suspected of being a Nazi spy. He is ordered to feed her fake intelligence to irrefutably prove she is a traitor. But Max is determined to prove his wife's real identity on his own terms, and attempts a dangerous mission to France to connect with her former resistance comrades.

Directed by Robert Zemeckis and written by Steven Knight, Allied is the sort of movie that Hollywood used to excel at. Two top stars, a respected director, romance, drama, some action and a backdrop of a grand and just war. That Allied is comprehensively botched is a sad condemnation of a film industry now utterly geared towards identikit superhero blockbusters, endless sequels and small-scale independent films, with nothing in between.

An attempted mix of elements from Mr. And Mrs. Smith and Casablanca, Allied is not remotely close to capturing the magic of either film. With dollops of unnecessary CGI deployed in all the wrong places, Allied looks fake and glossy from the outset. The emphasis appears to be on spectacular custom-made outfits, and forgotten in the pursuit of glitz is the setting of a world at war. The grit, grime, tension and desperation of an existential global conflict is absent.

The film zooms in too close to Max and Marianne. At every opportunity Knight fails in creating any contextual tension. The guns are blazing and bodies are dropping in Casablanca before the objective is explained, and why the mission is even important is never broached. Back in London, again the film incompetently neglects to reveal both the dangers Marianne is facing or the strategic importance of the military intelligence being compromised. And a dumbfoundingly inconsequential lesbian relationship is thrown into the film for no apparent reason.

Elsewhere, basic history and fundamental principles of military discipline are ignored. The battle of Britain ended in 1941. Here German bombers are somehow still blitzing London in 1944. And on a couple of occasions Max is given the freedom of a military airfield to commandeer a fighter jet for unsanctioned missions. After a fairly major skirmish with the Germans in occupied Dieppe, how exactly Max escapes both the Nazis and a military inquisition back home is deemed unimportant.

Allied is left with Marion Cotillard rising above the dross to deliver a delightful performance as a spy, a lover, a wife, a mother  and maybe a spy again. Compared to the wooden Pitt, she emerges as the one source of delicate warmth. Allied is a mission gone bad, but at least one of the agents is indeed special.

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