Allied

allied-movie-poster

Release: Wednesday, November 23, 2016

[Theater]

Written by: Steven Knight

Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

Brad Pitt finds a new ally in Marion Cotillard in his post-Angelina Jolie world. Sad face.

Actually, those were just rumors. And this isn’t a gossip column.

On the other hand, the two are pretty convincing playing a pair of lovestruck assassins whose loyalty to one another constantly competes with their loyalty to their own countries. Robert Zemeckis’ homage to classic wartime romantic epics is undeniably better because of the effortless charm of his leads, though Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh they are not. Not that that’s exactly a fair comparison. Allied isn’t setting out to reinvent the wheel; it rather feels more like a new tire with fresh tread. Perhaps it is better to consider the film more in the context of how it measures up to the classics found in Zemeckis’ back catalog as opposed to where it lies within the genre.

The film opens with SOE operative Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) parachuting into the sand dunes of French Morocco. It’s 1942 and he’s on a mission to take out a Nazi ambassador in Casablanca. He’s to work with French Resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard), who narrowly escaped France after her resistance group became compromised. On the assignment they pose as a married couple and are successful in eliminating their target and escaping with their lives.

What begins as merely a cover story develops into the genuine article, and soon Max and Marianne are married and settling down to start a family in London. In a particularly memorable scene they welcome their daughter Anna amidst the chaos of another aerial raid accompanying the German blitzkrieg that devastated the East End. Even under normal circumstances the birthing of a child is an event that tends to really bring a couple together, so I can only imagine going through that experience literally on the streets while debris and gunfire are raining down around you would do wonders for your ability to commit to your significant other.

The intensifying pressures of the war make Max’s job a living hell when he is told by an officer that outranks both himself and his direct superior Frank Heslop (Jared Harris) that his wife is a suspected double agent who is actually working for the Germans. He is ordered to trick Marianne into playing into a trap and once it’s proven she is indeed a German spy he must execute her himself or face being hanged for high treason. Behold, the great sacrifices that must be made in love and war. Or in this case, love during war.

Old-fashioned romance is shaped by two terrific performances from Pitt and Cotillard who once again remind us why they are among the industry’s elites. The heartache accompanying Max’s dilemma is compounded when you take into account how good their characters are at what they do. The performances within the performances are compelling. Steven Knight provides the screenplay, tapping into the psychological aspect of a most unusual and highly dangerous profession. The first third of the film makes a point of fixating upon that idea, of how trust is so hard to come by when you’re a professional spy.

That same third is a good barometer for how the rest of the film will play out. If you’re expecting bombastic, flashy displays of wartime violence you may need to look elsewhere, although the aforementioned blitzkrieg provides some pulse-pounding moments. Knight’s story ditches numbing CGI in favor of a more human and more intimate perspective. It’s an approach that admittedly contributes to a slower paced narrative but one that never succumbs to being boring. This is a film that’s more about the way two people look at each other rather than the way entire nations fight each other. On those grounds alone Allied feels like a throwback to war films like Gone with the Wind and Casablanca, and where the former lacks the latter films’ sense of grandeur it more than makes up for it in nuance.

Ultimately Allied finds its director working comfortably within his wheelhouse while offering  a darker, more subtle story that’s well worth investing time into.

allied

Recommendation: The trifecta of a steadily absorbing narrative, plush cinematic texture that contributes mightily to the mise en scène, and excellent performances from two seasoned pros makes this an easy recommendation. Especially if you are partial to Robert Zemeckis’ compassionate voice. Every one of his films have been tinged with a romantic element but whereas The Walk, his penultimate release, suffered from an over-reliance on it (to the point of schmaltz, in this reviewer’s opinion) his 2016 effort uses it to its advantage, creating an ultimately enjoyable and often surprising wartime drama that will reward repeat viewings.

Rated: R

Running Time: 124 mins.

Quoted: “Hey, what happened to my kiss?” 

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com

TBT: Goldeneye (1995)

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It’s a brand new month and once again time for a whole new way to dork out on Throwback Thursday. After taking the week off last week I am back and feeling refreshed after sifting through a month of Adam Sandler films. (Speculation is probably going to run high about whether I threw in the towel on that theme or if I just simply got lazy and didn’t do a fifth TBT for the month. . .either way, I ain’t tellin’!) But we’re back and better than ever, and it’s time to look back on some classic action films, and I wish now that this month had more Thursdays because pairing down the canon of James Bond films to just four is going to be some task. But I’m willing to do it, as long as you’re willing to trust me that I know what I’m doing (I don’t). I’m really just going to be making this up as I go along — because how can I honestly up and declare that these four that I select for the month are ‘the best?’ What I will do though, is call these four my favorites, and that they best represent the series based on the actor playing 007 at the time. So let the espionage, back-stabbery and misogyny commence!

Today’s food for thought: Goldeneye

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Status Activate: November 17, 1995

[VHS]

Mission Briefing: 007 is tasked with preventing a nuclear space weapon from firing on London. In order to do this he has no choice but to expose the identity of the terrorist, believed to be a former MI6 agent, confront him and stop him at all costs.

Mission Support: 

  • Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco) — to be quite frank, purely emotional support
  • Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) — can be kind of flaky but will show support if necessary
  • Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen) — not the kind of support any agent wants or needs; approach with extreme prejudice
  • Jack Wade (Joe Don Baker) — technical back-up
  • Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky (Robbie Coltrane) — loyalty unquestioned, though a man with serious trust issues
  • General Arkady Grigorovich Ourumov (Gottfried John) — a man supportive of his own ambitions, and considered a traitor to his country; MI6’s top suspect in the attack on Severnaya; approach with extreme prejudice
  • Russian Defense Minister Dmitri Mishkin (Tchéky Karyo) — slightly ambiguous motives; approach with caution

Q Branch: Q (Desmond Llewelyn) strongly advocates the use of several small devices that might help you out of a tight spot, particularly if you have any interest in pursuing this slippery Ourumov fella. A quick rig of your belt buckle and a simple exploding pen should do the trick. Best of luck out there Bond.

Performance Evaluation: Rico Suave, a.k.a. Pierce Brosnan in his first outing gets betrayed by fellow agent — though apparently his inferior, based on his 006 status — Alec Trevelyan when a botched mission in an underground laboratory in Arkhangelsk, Russia leads to the two forming starkly different views on loyalty. . .to the mission, to the Crown, and ultimately to one another. Goldeneye is a rather emotionally charged action adventure that’s inarguably Brosnan’s finest hour in the tux.

Leaping from one ultra-classic action set piece to the next, Goldeneye tries not to slow down and almost forgets to breathe in its own gorgeous scenery though occasional slow moments are injected to ground the drama if only temporarily.

Characters are not only memorable but effective. Look no further than Jack Wade for some nice comic relief in addition to the requisite Q branch scenes, and at the heart of the drama lies the decay of a once sturdy friendship, which has gravity thanks to chemistry between Brosnan and Bean. Villains Ourumov and particularly Onatopp prove to be worthy opponents, and nerdy programmer Boris Grishinko provides yet another comedic thread, whose own fate may be the most suitable and uncanny of them all.

Perhaps it helps that the film was backed up by a quality (and classic, if you ask me) video game — Goldeneye is a serious magnet for nostalgia. Considering that Brosnan turned out to be not among the greatest portrayals, it’s an even more impressive feat that this turns out to leave quite the impression on the cinematic landscape. Ian Fleming would be proud of this one. And even though it’s not Martin Campbell’s best (such a distinction is reserved for his unforgettable Casino Royale), it gives his latest a serious run for it’s money in terms of being memorable.

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Sean Bean about to be set adrift on memory bliss . . .

4-0Recommendation: Anyone who is a fan of the franchise has a soft spot for this gem. Like the Walther PPK or Bond’s signature martini, it’s simply a classic, for lack of a better word. Swift, sexy and (un)subtle, this film is a great load of fun and a definitive staple of the 1990s.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 130 mins.

Quoted: “I AM INVINCIBLE!”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.imdb.com