Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Allied

2/4

Starring: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris

Rated R for Violence, Some Sexuality/Nudity, Language and Brief Drug Use

Chemistry.

When it comes to chemistry between actors, or sometimes between actors and filmmakers (like DeNiro and Scorcese, for instance), it's essential.  It's when the two feed off each other in an interesting way.  But it is so hard to get right, since it can't be bought, written, or directed.  It has to do with the right actors in the right roles.  Talent doesn't mean anything either.  For every Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, there are dozens of couples like Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard.  Both are fine actors, but they don't "click".

Max Vatan (Pitt) is a Canadian fighter pilot sent behind enemy lines.  His task: pose as the husband of Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard) and assassinate a German diplomat.  Although they try to remain strictly professional, the two fall for each other, and after the mission is over, he brings her back to London.

Cut to a year later.  Marianne has given him a daughter and he has a desk job.  Despite the death and air raids, life couldn't be happier.  Then his superior, Frank Heslop (Harris) and a shady government operative (Simon McBurney in a cameo), bring him some grave news: an interrogation in Europe uncovers some information about a German female spy, and all signs point to Marianne.  Max doesn't believe it and sets out to prove them otherwise.  Because if he's wrong, he himself has to execute her, or else be hung for treason.

Someone should have figured out that there was no chemistry between Pitt and Cotillard.  None.  I mean, zero.  Not even a sex scene in a swirling sandstorm (which is wonderfully staged, by the way) can generate any heat.  Did they just take the script, or even the concept, and cast the actors based on their ability to fit the part?  Like, did one studio executive say, "We need an American star and a French star.  Let's get Brad Pitt, because he's in the news lately, and Marion Cotillard, because she's the only French actress anyone knows."  With an $85 million price tag, I hope not, but sometimes I wonder...

Marion Cotillard is always interesting to watch.  She gives it her all and gives a solid performance.  But she lacks the raw sexuality and mystery that would serve the character well.  Sophie Marceau, Elektra King from the Bond movie "The World is Not Enough," would have been a more spirited choice.

Am I the only one who thinks that Brad Pitt has gotten lazy over the years?  I mean, when was the last time he gave a truly great performance?  "Inglorious Basterds," maybe, but that was far from his best work.  "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button?"  That was 8 years ago.  Lately he's been coasting by on his charisma (see "Kalifornia" for a taste of his true talent).  Or maybe it's because of his split from Angelina Jolie (who seems to attract drama on a regular basis).  Whatever the reason, he's either miscast or not trying.  And at age 52 (!), he's too old for this sort of role.

Behind the scenes, the utter blandness of this movie is just as surprising.  It was written by Steven Knight, who has written some great screenplays, like "Locke," "Burnt," "Closed Circuit" and "Redemption."  And for the director, they got Robert Zemeckis, who directed "Contact," the "Back to the Future" trilogy, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" and won an Oscar for "Forrest Gump."  Yet the story is repetitive, the dialogue bland, and the direction (save for a few special effects shots and the aforementioned love scene) flat.  Perhaps studio meddling was to blame.  At least, it's the only explanation I can come up with to explain how so much talent produced such a dull motion picture.

While I'm pondering that, I do have suggestions for those who are looking for what "Allied" promises to offer but fails to deliver.  If you're looking for a WWII espionage thriller, check out Paul Verhoeven's "Black Book."  If you're in the romantic mood, see "Atonement."  This movie isn't worth your time or money.

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