Friday, February 17, 2017

Movies with Abe: Allied

Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Released November 23, 2016

It’s a statistic that would be impossible to research or prove, but I’d be willing to bet that World War II is the most cinematically-realized conflict in history. The rise and fall of the Nazis is a big draw for moviemaking, the Holocaust is an important piece of history that many want to memorialize, and the scale of this “world war” present many opportunities for spotlighting different stories, with “Hacksaw Ridge” and “Land of Mine” serving as two completely unalike Oscar-nominated films about it this year. Another, up for Best Costume Design, is the less completely compelling “Allied.”

Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) is an intelligence officer in the Canadian Air Force sent to Casablanca, Morocco to pose as the husband of a socialite played by French resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard). The two execute their mission - and a handful of Nazis - and return, together, to London to start a life and a family as real husband and wife. The pull of service constantly attracts Max back to the war, and he is dismayed to learn that his latest assignment is to determine whether the woman with whom he has made a home is in fact a Nazi spy.

Pitt and Cotillard are obvious choices for these roles because of their enormous public appeal and experience playing these types of characters. Pitt has made two World War II-set movies in the past five years (not to be confused with “World War Z”), "Fury" and "Inglourious Basterds," portraying commanders on the front lines, and here he gets to step back and play a far more subdued covert agent. Cotillard has achieved international fame after winning an Oscar for “La Vie en Rose,” and her seductive, duplicitous part in “Inception” is probably the best recommender for her to appear in this film. The chemistry between the two leads is undeniable, and they drive this movie more than anything else.

This film is better classified as a spy thriller than as a war movie, and while there is intrigue to be found, it’s far from the most enthralling story. In a conflict that can be considered global, this is an insular story of two people that barely includes anyone else, and those characters, intriguing as they may be, that do appear, are relatively underdeveloped. A running time over two hours does not feel justified, and this film serves as a passable if hardly mandatory cinematic experience, with its costumes as its best asset.


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