Wednesday 23 November 2016

Review: Allied

Cert: 15 / 124 mins / Dir. Robert Zemeckis / Trailer

Ah, that awkward feeling when you realise you're watching Marion Cotillard being outstanding in a film which is only quite good. If anything, it reflects quite badly on director Robert Zemeckis that an actress who was probably pregnant for a lot of her scenes was the one required to do all the heavy lifting. But I'm getting ahead of myself…

Morocco, 1942. Canadian allied-forces spy Max Vatan is airdropped outside of Casablanca*1 and instructed to meet fellow operative Marianne Beausejour. Posing as a married couple, they are to carry out an assassination of a high-ranking Nazi official. After completing their mission (that's in the trailer, it's not a spoiler), they relocate to London and marry while Max continues working for the Ministry of Defence. But when his superiors have reason to believe that Marianne is a German spy filtering information back to the Fatherland, Max has to ask himself how deep her cover really is, and if he even knows the real Marianne at all…

An odd recipe this, putting Mr Pitt of 'no fixed genre' with thespic heavyweight Cotillard, written by Steven Knight (of Eastern Promises' parish) and directed by Robert 'Back To The Future' Zemeckis. And that list of primary ingredients is as uneven as the film which comes out of the cinematic oven after two hours.

Ultimately, Allied doesn't seem to know what it wants to be, be it a tense espionage thriller or angst-ridden romantic drama. As a result the film ends up convincing as neither, although it is quite a lot of fun in the meanwhile. The action set-pieces are nicely executed, as is the overall sense of creeping tension. Pitt seems to struggle when he's required to show emotion (although I can't tell how much of that is his perma-spy character not wanting to show his true colours), whereas Cotillard more than makes up for it with a performance which is far too subtle for a film like this. While each scene moves the story in the right direction, the film is baggy at just over two hours, often feeling like it's stalling the audience. Elsewhere there's some neat cinematography in the Casablanca section of the film (even if much of it screams 'soundstage'), and the damp, muted colour-palette of London complements it perfectly. We've also got long-time Zemeckis cohort Alan Silvestri on scoring duties, routinely playing his game of 'hide the BTTF opening-line' where everyone can hear it. Bless him.

The other awkward feeling comes in the film's closing moments, when a quiet, reflective coda suggests that the audience have been watching something emotionally engaging rather than just quite entertaining. For all the ducking, shooting, whispering and shouting though, the relationship at the centre of the film just didn't convince me. And that is supposed to be the point of the film.

I want to score Allied more highly, because it is enjoyable. But I know for a fact that in about a week, I won't remember a thing about it…

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Well, it wants to be Inglourious Basterds with a heart, but it ends up more like Mr & Mrs Smith with a grimace.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
As much fun as it is, there's nothing inherently cinematic about it, unfortunately.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Judging by the last few minutes?
Apparently not

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
It's not.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
I won't.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There is.
First firearm-related casualty of the movie.
Textbook stuff

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: This film stars messrs Brad Pitt and August Diehl, both of whom rocked up in Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, a movie which featured a voice-over from Sam Windu Jackson.

I mean seriously, who casts Pitt and Diehl in a WWII thriller together again? Mind you, Daniel Betts is in this, and he starred with Pitt in Fury, another WWII drama. Thinking about it, the problem could just be Brad Pitt…

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Bear in mind, the film Casablanca wasn't released until 1942. This film is set in 1942. At the time it came out, it was another run-of-the-mill, quick-turnaround drama; well-received an'all, but it didn't gain its iconic status until years later. I only mention it because that line in the trailer where Marianne's like "You'll go on the roof. In Casablanca, that's where men go…" is a trope she wheels out every three minutes or so. Like there's something really special about this Nazi-occupied city that all the others in mainland Europe haven't got. "In Casablanca, we don't drive slowly" / "In Casablanca, men don't kiss their wives with their top shirt-buttons undone" / "In Casablanca, we start with the cutlery from the outside but we use the steak-knife to butter the bread". I genuinely expected Max to stop and yell "Oh, are we in Casablanca? I WISH YOU'D SAID SOMETHING EARLIER, I'VE DRESSED FOR CROYDON!"

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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