A shockingly lame, unconvincing film. (Review: Patrick Compton – 4/10)
Allied is a shockingly lame, unconvincing film by Robert Zemeckis, particularly as the anticipated fizzing chemical reaction between Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard is almost entirely absent. The inter-reaction between these two gorgeous beasts, in fact, is as arousing as a used teabag.
Black marks must go to Zemeckis for his horribly laboured direction, Steven Knight for his trite screenplay and Pitt for his most wooden performance since Troy.
When you consider all the Hollywood tittle-tattle that circulated last year, claiming that Pitt and Cotillard had had an affair on set (a claim strongly denied by the latter), the soggy end result will ensure that’s the only reason the movie will be remembered.
The early scenes take place in Vichy-ruled Casablanca in 1942 and it’s clear that Zemeckis, who hasn’t made a decent film in 20 years, is hoping to recreate nostalgic memories of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman at play.
His attempt doesn’t come close, despite the impressive sets and costumes. Pitt, who seems to be enveloped in thespian permafrost, plays Max Vatan, a Canadian Air Force agent parachuted in to assassinate the local German ambassador. In order to achieve this, he has to link up with the lissome Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard), a French agent who somehow managed to escape from Dieppe in France the previous year after the Germans had rumbled her spy ring.
Disguised as a newly married couple, the pair not only carry out their ho-hum mission but succeed in genuinely falling in love, although their main moment of passion, in a car during a sand storm, is laughably contrived.
Accepting that Pitt (with his dreadful accent) is a French speaker is a particularly hard ask, but let’s be generous and say that the Casablanca scenes are tolerable. But any attempts at suspension of disbelief implode in chapter two when the couple set up home in London. The pace, measured at best until now, slows to a dawdle with nothing much happening besides Marianne giving birth in the street during a German air raid in one of the movie’s most ludicrously unlikely scenes.
But then the couple’s idyll is shattered and the pace picks up, albeit with little accompanying dramatic force. After somehow surviving their first adventure in Casablanca, the aftermath in London threatens to tear the couple apart as certain inconvenient questions are asked.
By this stage, however, the movie is in the dead zone. Zemeckis’s attempt to create a nostalgic wartime pastiche, full of love and tragedy, had long since crashed and burned. The plot wanders along an increasingly ragged path and the climax, which takes place at a local airfield, completely lacks emotional impact. Pitt’s reaction to what takes place is either ridiculously hamfisted or a clear indication of how seriously he took the entire project.
Let’s end on a positive note. Cotillard’s valiant contribution to a lost cause has to be acknowledged. The glamorous French actress makes the best of her limited role, playing the enigmatic agent, lover and mother with as much vivacity as she can muster. Clad in a succession of stunning outfits, she is by some distance the easiest thing on the eye that the movie has to offer though even she is unable to make us believe that she and the frozen Pitt are believable lovers.
Allied opens in Durban on January 20. – Patrick Compton