Film review - Allied: Brad and Marion fail to ignite
Robert Zemeckis' much-vaunted thriller is nothing to write home about
Published 26/11/2016 | 07:00
Like a suspect who's so widely been accused of murder that a fair trial seems impossible, Allied limps into our cinemas shrouded in a cloud of negativity and innuendo. When Brad and Angelina's marriage hit the skids during the summer, the gutter press rushed to find a satisfyingly demonic explanation for this rupture in paradise, put two and two together and came up with 27.
French actress Marion Cotillard was practically named as a correspondent in the separation, and why? Because she was Brad's latest co-star and attractive enough to represent a danger to shipping.
Famous before it ever emerged for all the wrong reasons, Allied was always going to struggle to justify all that frantic pre-release attention and it turns out to be an oddly flat and old-fashioned wartime drama about two anti-Nazi combatants who fall in love. Robert Zemeckis, who has spent at least the last decade tinkering with motion capture technology, opens Allied in typically tricksy fashion: a parachutist, looking suspiciously animated, flutters through the air towards an empty desert, lands quietly and begins tramping towards civilisation.
It's Brad, or rather Max Vatan, a dashing Canadian Air Force Wing Commander who's arrived in North Africa to executive a daring mission. He swaggers into Casablanca and meets up with a glamorous female agent called Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard), who's masquerading as his wife. In fact, they've never met before and pretend to be all lovey-dovey as they finalise plans to assassinate a Nazi commander.
Somewhere along the way, the fake romance becomes real and after they escape from north Africa, Max and Marianne settle down in London, marry and have a child. All is sweetness and light, apart from the war that is, until Max is called into work one day and confronted by a deeply unpleasant possibility. A nasty man from the Special Operations Executive tells him that a German spy ring has been active in leafy Highgate and Marianne is suspected of passing secrets to the Nazis herself.
He's ordered to leave a piece of apparently vital military information around the house and wait: if the info turns up in decoded German messages, her guilt will be conclusive and Max must kill her himself. And when he gets home, the wife wonders why he's in such a funny mood.
This twist has been well advertised in Allied's trailers and comes midway through a film that had been plodding along rather aimlessly. It gives the drama a certain Hitchcockian frisson as Max broods in the background, making funny faces while Marianne throws parties and mutters suspiciously with foreign-looking types.
Is she guilty? You'll have to go see the film to find out.
If you do, though, you may wonder why Mr Zemeckis and co bothered to make it in the first place. It reminds one of wartime thrillers like Casablanca and Dark Passage, but seems a bloodless pastiche by comparison. The talents of fine character actors like Jared Harris and Lizzy Caplan are thrown away in humdrum supporting roles and Allied's action scenes are oddly anaemic.
Meanwhile, we must endure the ghastly business of Brad attempting to speak French and making it sound like Serbo-Croat. He seems puffy and distracted, and smiles apologetically whenever deep emotions are supposed to be passing across his ever-handsome face.
Given the right character, Mr Pitt can be a very effective screen actor, but he seems disengaged here and, in fairness, is given very little to hang on to. Except for Ms Cotillard of course, but their much-vaunted screen chemistry turns out not to exist at all.
In a blandly tasteful sex scene, we catch glimpses of Ms Cotillard's bosom, hints of Mr Pitt's bottom before a passing sand storm overwhelms the vehicle in which they're making love to spare our blushes.
She's good in everything, but at times I thought I caught her huge, soulful eyes wondering how they had landed themselves in the middle of this stilted, stiff and deadly dull production.
Films coming soon...
Sully: Miracle On The Hudson (Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney); Bleed For This (Miles Teller, Ciaran Hinds); Moana (Dwayne Johnson, Jemaine Clement); The Edge Of Seventeen (Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick).