It seems Hollywood is bound and determined to churn out reboots, most of which nobody asked for or wanted. Thankfully, Allied, starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard is a welcome exception. While Allied owes a debt to the 1942 classic, Casablanca, this latest offering from director Robert Zemeckis is no reboot. Allied weaves a mix of subtle and obvious homages to Casablanca while telling a suspenseful story all its own. The result is a movie that evokes old Hollywood, but reflects 2016 values.
Set in WWII, Allied follows Max Vatan (Pitt), an officer in the British Royal Air Force, and Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard), a member of the French Resistance. The pair meet during a mission, fall in love, and get married. The plot eventually gets going in earnest when Max learns the British government suspects Marianne of spying for the Germans. The central question – whether Marianne is a spy, is an engaging mystery that makes up for a somewhat slow first act. Zemeckis introduced enough doubt about the characters’ allegiances that I started to wonder whether I might be a German spy and not even know it.
Because of the nature of this film’s central question, making this film work hinges on Marion Cotillard. She succeeded, giving a charming performance, making it easy for audiences to understand why Max (Pitt) might fall for her. She also managed to seem dangerous and sweet simultaneously, no small feat. If she doesn’t come off as credible, if audiences can’t relate to Max’s affection for her, then the whole film doesn’t work. The stakes aren’t quite as high for Pitt, whose performance was justifiably reserved. His character faces less scrutiny as it is through Max’s experience that audiences must solve this mystery.
Visually, the cinematography had a few standout moments and used symbolism with varying degrees of subtlety. Some of Allied takes place in the African city of Casablanca. This homage to the 1942 film is about as obvious as it gets. Other visual cues, none of which I’ll spoil here, offer foreshadowing, emotional contrast, and a sense of the world’s inherent danger. This film’s depiction of London, weary of years of German bombing, gives a stark reminder that life during the war was anything but normal, despite Londoners’ best efforts to keep calm and carry on.
Allied is satisfyingly suspenseful, though evoking a film as well known as Casablanca is a bold choice. Perhaps this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise from Zemeckis, who directed the Back to the Future trilogy and Forest Gump. These films, like Allied, give a perspective on the past focused through a modern lens. Zemeckis doesn’t present the past as idyllic, but also stops short of offering explicit criticism. What he offers is an opportunity to recognize how different things are today, then allowing audiences to draw their own conclusions about how to feel.
Just as Casablanca is a film that reflects its era, so too is Allied. Whereas Casablanca forces its characters to choose between personal interests and resisting Nazi tyranny, Allied forces a narrower choice. Max’s struggle is more personal than it is patriotic. The 1940s gave us the so-called Greatest Generation. The coordinated effort and sacrifice that earned such a title feels impossible in 2016. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the world really would rally against a clear existential threat, but the stories we tell today, even about the past, reveal what we care about.
|Genre:||Action, Drama, Romance|
|Release Date:||November 23rd, 2016|
|Author:||Jason M. Brown|
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