Wednesday, November 30, 2016

"Allied" Review: A Half-Hearted Performance From Star Brad Pitt Sinks This Spy Hunt


Robert Zemeckis has crafted a filmography that while not exactly perfect is still filled to the brim with films that have left and everlasting impact on pop culture and the film industry as a whole. Things like Marty and Doc taking a ride into the future with a Dolorean from Back to the Future, Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner setting out on a grand adventure in Romancing the Stone, Tom Hanks learning to love a volleyball in Cast Away or explaining the many metaphors from a box of chocolates in Forrest Gump. So it is always sad when a filmmaker of this caliber stumbles even a little bit as we have come to expect such great things from them and that is what makes Zemeckis' latest feature the World War 2 romance epic Allied such a major disappointment despite having a number positive elements. Read the full review after the break.

Review Vital Stats:   
Projector Type: 2D Digital
Film Rating: R
Film Runtime:  2 hr 4 min
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: November 23, 2016

Biases:  
Loves:  Most Robert Zemeckis films
Likes: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, World War 2 films
Neutral: World War 2 romance films
Hates: Brad Pitt's performance
An alternate choice for a WW2 romance?: Watch Casablanca or even The English Patient instead.

Max and Marianne find love amidst all the chaos around them.

It is 1942 in the midst of World War 2 when undercover agent Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) sneaks into a Nazi occupied Casablanca to meet his contact Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard) who is also undercover as Max's wife. Although Max is emotionally distant at first it doesn't take long before he develops feelings for Marianne which culminates in the two eventually getting married and having a child when they return to London. Everything is going fine for them until the day that it is revealed to Max that his wife may in fact be a German spy and has been using him to feed intelligence to the Nazis. With his back up against a wall and a ticking clock to discover the truth about his wife, Max must decide if he should trust Marianne or the irrefutable evidence that has been laid out before him.

The cornerstone to every great romance are the actors. Getting the right actors can elevate even the worst script but getting the wrong actors can take even a great script and burn it to the ground. Never has this been more evident in recent years than that of Allied, a film with an intriguing premise, a number of capable actors and a director who has an extensive resume of some of the greatest films of all time. But yet none of it works simply because the chemistry between the two leads just isn't there which for even a normal romance film would be detrimental but when you add in the high stakes of the World War 2 setting along with themes including eternal love and betrayal it is downright catastrophic.

Marion Cotillard gives a heartfelt performance that sadly isn't matched by her co-star.

Brad Pitt can be an exceptional actor when he wants to be and has done both extremes in the realm of romance films with his Legends of the Fall showing his more stoic and charming side and Mr. and Mrs. Smith showing his much more playful and charismatic side. Perhaps due to timing (he was likely going through his breakup with Angelina Jolie while filming) or a lack of enthusiasm in the project itself, watching Pitt go through the motions as Max, this man who is supposedly so desperately in love with Marianne that he is willing to sacrifice his life and his daughters to protect her, feels wholly unconvincing at the most crucial of moments. Whether it be the moment he realizes how much he loves Marianne and asks her to be his wife or the moment when he is told that his wife is a spy you never get the impression that he cares all that much which seems out of character for an actor with his pedigree.

Pitt's lack of emotion might not have been quite as noticeable however if it weren't for the fact that his co-star and better half Marion Cotillard absolutely knocks it out of the park. Her conviction to the role and to Max is always evident in every little glance, word or action from beginning to end. We never question her loyalty to Max or her child which stands in stark contrast to how we view Max who seems to be living on a different planet at times with how out of touch he is with what is happening around him. Either way you slice it though Pitt was the wrong choice for Max and that fatal mistake spills over into everything else putting an indistinguishable stink on the whole project.

This is basically the look Brad Pitt gives throughout the whole film.

Even Zemeckis' usual visual flair gets lost in the background as just about every single shot is blocked out by Pitt's 24/7 grimace that makes it near impossible to appreciate the amount of work and effort that went into the often impressive production design leaving the film stuck lingering in this awkward limbo between good and bad making the audience feel mostly indifferent and cold. Cotillard's performance consistently tries to keep everything elevated and on track as does the surefire direction from Zemeckis and his crew but every time we cut back to Pitt trying to emote it all comes tumbling down. What truly gets hurt by all this however is the final moments of the film which should be heart wrenching and/or shocking but ultimately leaves the audience feeling emotionally disconnected from the events that unfold. We should be on the edge of our seats but instead are looking for the nearest exit.

Allied is one of those films that will puzzle and confound film enthusiasts as to what exactly happened here more than anything else. All the pieces of the puzzle were in place for what could have been a moving romance but was ultimately let down by a single piece that was jammed into place when it should have been removed altogether. Usually this is where I would recommend the film to those who might be able to look past its shortcomings but in the case of Allied I can't find anyway to make a case for anyone to see it. If you are a fan of Pitt's you will wish you were watching one of his other better movies. If you are a fan of Cotillard's then you will learn to despise every moment she isn't on screen. If you love World War 2 themed romance films there isn't enough to satisfy either group and if you love Robert Zemeckis you will be hard pressed to even know he directed it until the end credits role as his trademark film style is almost no where to be seen. This is one of those rare films that will likely never truly satisfy anyone nor will it be remembered past its likely brief theatrical run.


FINAL THOUGHTS:

While there were moments throughout Allied that were promising they were fleeting at best. It is very out of character for me to lay all the blame for the failure of an entire film at the feet of one person but it is almost impossible to walk away from the film not looking back at it and tracing all the parts you didn't like back to Brad Pitt's joyless performance. Rarely do we see such a seasoned actor drop the ball as hard as this but when it happens it is difficult to forget let alone forgive. For his sake and everyone else attached to Allied the quicker it is forgotten the better.

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