Allied (2016) – Movie Review

I know that Allied is a movie that released last year and I know that it has probably had a lot of reviews written about it. But I just got around to watching and this is my site so, je vais écrire l’examen maintenant

Yeah, there’s a lot of French in the movie. But like I said, given my unique circumstances of having only recently watched the movie and being bored at home post-final exams, I will write the review now.

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Cast: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris, Lizzy Caplan

In One Line: The film is heady, dazzling, and a visual feast despite toeing a clichéd line of trust and mistrust in the background of the Second World War, with Pitt and Cotillard proving why they’re two of the best actors.

Before I get started, I must admit a little bias. I’ve always been a fan of Brad Pitt and I’ve loved Marion’s performances since I first saw her in the French film Taxi (1998) as Lilly Bertineau. So, it was only natural that when the two of them were part of a movie being produced with a subject line of wartime romance, I was definitely going to watch it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t watch it earlier given the fact that I was due to give my final year exams so here we are.

Allied treads a much-treaded upon path in the form of wartime romantic thrillers. Not that it is a genre without substance – seduction is often a key form of espionage in war (Read as Mata Hari). The first thing that strikes you about the movie is it’s visuals. It’s a heady mix- heavy contrasts, heavy colours and so on. And everything contributes to the scene’s visual attraction- from the strong, blood red colour of Marion Cotillard’s lipstick to the overall dinner party setting. Even the scenes that are dark and gloomy- like the ones shot in the Moroccan night sky or the ones in good old gloomy England are exaggerated visually so to speak. I’m not saying it’s a negative but rather that it only adds to the flavour of the movie. Rather than have James Bond-esque plotlines or frequent run-and-kill sequences, Allied relies on using the intensity of the locales and the situations to drive home the tension rather than just merely showcase it as part of dialogue, plot and screenplay- which is a big, welcome diversion from some other movies.

Marion Cotillard and Brad Pitt, acting as Marianne Beausejour and Max Vatan respectively, hit it off on-screen. There’s no question. From the moment they share screen space, the chemistry between them is unbelievable. Brad seemingly has the role with more scope- so to speak. He is the one who falls in love with Marianne, marries her, has a child and then has to deal with the revelation that the mother of her child is not who she says she is. Marion Cotillard, for her part, seems more subdued when looked at superficially. But a deeper look into her role shows how versatile she is. She starts off as the bossy one of the two – telling le Quebecois about the work she has done so far in Morocco and of what tradition in Morocco is when it comes to a marital relationship. But as the movie progresses, she brings out the different emotions beautifully- seemingly transforming herself with every moment on screen. She is tensed and tight when she thinks Max suspects something, she takes joy from the daily task of being a mother, she is anxious, relieved, begging for mercy and pleading when she confesses to Max and finally, she has a sense of calm about her when she writes the letter to her daughter. All in all, Marion Cotillard matched Brad Pitt stride for stride and yet complimented him in a way second to none.

The supporting roles played by Lizzy Caplan as Max’s sister and Jared Harris as Max’s commanding officer, Frank Heslop, are of particular note. Thierry Frémont does very well in his brief cameo as Paul Delamare as does Matthew Goode as Guy Sangster.

The storyline, supposedly based on a story Steven Knight heard, is solid on the whole. It does, of course, trod upon the familiar lines of “Who do you trust and who do you not?” and to be completely honest, the storyline doesn’t provide a lot of surprises. It does just enough to tantalise the viewer- like making him ask why, if Marianne was indeed a German spy, would she kill a German official in Morocco – but doesn’t go too deep into it. Instead of focusing on an elaborate plotline or a storyline, Allied decides to play with emotions rather than the actual sequence of events. Of course, that is not to say the sequence of events are too miniscule in importance or irrelevant but that their relevance is tempered in face of human suffering. The screenplay is particularly good, especially when it concerns what Pitt and Cotillard have to do on-screen. The most poignant scenes, I think, in this regard were in fact three scenes in the first half of the movie – the one with the lovemaking in the middle of a desert storm (slightly exaggerated, but gives the impression of love and certainty in a period of uncertainty and danger), the scene at the restaurant where Pitt and Cotillard look like characters from Casablanca and finally, the rooftop conversation scenes in Morocco.

The camerawork, as I mentioned earlier, is good and adds to the splendour of a visual extravaganza. The background music, unlike a few other movies of this genre, takes a backseat. Whether by accident or by design, I do not know, but it does serve the purpose of elevating visual content above itself- which is a good thing. More background music and scoring, even if appropriate, may have either drawn attention away from the visuals or felt like an overdose. The outcome wouldn’t have been as effective either way.

Overall, Allied is a movie that is both unique in it’s use of the visual medium in a spy-romance thriller, accentuated by the vivacity of Pitt and Cotillard in their roles, and yet fairly run-of-the-mill in terms of the actual storyline.

P.S. If you understand French, you have to watch this movie. Marion Cotillard makes even the most mundane dialogue sound sexy in French, while Pitt’s French isn’t so bad either (heavily accented, but not bad).

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