It is the thirteenth of the month and time for the Lucky 13 Film Club discussion; thank you for stopping by to share your opinion of December’s topic, the recent release of Allied. Please welcome my blogging buddy, Ruth from Flixchatter, whose interesting movie site is a steadfast choice to follow. Check out her full review linked below.
Allied is a gorgeous film. Unfortunately, it’s more style over substance… an elegant, sleek but utterly superficial affair. The 1940s set pieces look authentic, the streets, the cars, planes, etc. I especially love the Morocco setting, which instantly conjures up memories of Casablanca. The retro clothes are beautiful, especially Marion Cotillard’s sateen dress in a pivotal scene in Morocco, her slinky nightgown when she’s all seductive up on the roof, etc. Costume designer Joanna Johnston apparently studied Old Hollywood films from that era, and she is a master of creating retro styles, as evident in her work in Forrest Gump and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. The stunning cinematography is courtesy of Robert Zemeckis’ regular collaborator Don Burgess. The opening shot is striking, with an aerial shot of the desert and a wide shot of Brad Pitt walking under the hot Sahara sun. The dust storm effects set during the film’s love scene inside the car is particularly memorable as well. Clearly, they have a big enough budget to create such painstakingly detailed sets (filmed in Spain and the UK). Needless to say, Zemeckis & co. achieved an authentic look of a wartime period drama, if only the actors’ performances were as convincing.
So how about that acting? Marion Cotillard lit up the screen. Her complicated character switched from coquette to teacher, to lover, to wife, to mother, to mysterious spy with all the mannerisms, facial expressions and passion that you would expect from an accomplished actress. In fact, since this film seems to create associations for many of Casablanca(1942), I’ll claim Marion gave a performance that Ingrid Bergman would have been proud, which is the highest compliment I could give Ms. Cotillard since Ingrid Bergman is my favorite actress of all time.
Brad Pitt. Criticisms of the film include a hefty dose of the blame falling on the square shoulders of Pitt. Was he too wooden, too stoic, to give a heartfelt performance? Especially since Marion was lively and interesting to watch? That was my initial impression, too. But, if we are going to link similarities of Allied to Casablanca, then I’d say Brad acted just like Humphrey Bogart. Perhaps that was how Brad Pitt approached the role. Sly and stoic, a gentleman, letting the lady shine while he watched, internalizing the situation rather than impulsively reacting. As the movie progresses and the plot switches to London locales and domesticity, Brad Pitt’s stiff start warms up with more smiles. The worried pangs of doubt threaten his character’s introversion, and when he attempts to discover whether his wife is a German spy, the movie finally blossoms and becomes intriguing. By the climax at the movie’s end, I am engaged, and Max’s trust and love for Marianne felt believable. If you aren’t in a hurry, it’s not a disappointment.
What went wrong with this beautiful film? There were two grievous errors that kept it from being a top rated film. First, side characters did not help the plot or support the motivations of the principal pair. There was no Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) for which to show another side of Rick’s personality. There were no sidekicks that brought humor and charm to soften the stoicism of Rick’s personality like Sam (Dooley Wilson), Yvonne (Madeleine LeBeau), or Ugarte (Peter Lorre). Second, where’s the score? They missed a golden opportunity to include beautiful music to represent their feelings and the ambiguity of their situations. I would bet anyone a fiver if Zemeckis had included a decent score, more people would have appreciated the film. 3.5/5.
What did you like or not about Allied? Did you get a chance to see it? If not, what are some of your favorite Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard performances?