Flawed war spy thriller ends up pretty limp by Richard jones

alliedA look at Allied (M)

I THINK we all know that when two major world movie stars are paired in a film it’s going to be hard to concentrate on the actual story line.

Such is the case with director Robert Zemeckis’ spy thriller where we could easily cast aside the actual storyline and just watch Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard go about their business.

For the record Max Vatan (Pitt) is a Canadian intelligence officer while Cotillard is Marianne Beausejour, a French resistance operative. It starts in the early 1940s.

They meet in Casablanca after Max has been parachuted into the desert, collected and driven into town to pick up his clothes, car and a suitcase with a false bottom.

Inside is his sub-machine gun and ammunition. He heads off to meet Marianne – “find the humming bird” he’s told – where they pose as husband and wife at a flash restaurant after Max spots the humming bird emblazoned on a shawl draped over a chair.

They live as a happily married business couple in a pretty nice apartment before infiltrating the Nazi Germany embassy.

Marianne has a simple recipe to sustain her knife-edge deception. “I keep the emotions real. That’s how it works,” she says.

Anyway, at the Nazi embassy Max’s card shuffling skills impress the ambassador’s poker-mad private secretary so they get an ‘in’ for a big official reception.

It’s there where Max’s and Marianne’s weapons are conveniently taped to the bottom of one large catering table. Away they go after upturning the table, pumping magazine after magazine into the hapless German guards, Nazi officials (including the card-playing flunky) and of course, the ambassador.

Eventually they get back to London – we’re never too sure how because, in truth, that alone would have been a hazardous episode – where Max and Marianne set up house after a proper marriage ceremony.

A baby daughter is born during a 1943 bombing raid before Max is handed an absolute bombshell.

He and his operations boss Frank Heslop (Jared Harris) are summoned to an ultra-secret basement where they meet a senior Special Operations Executive spook.

“We believe your wife is a German spy,” the spook informs Max with a distraught Frank listening in.

The super spy also informs Max that the assassination of the German ambassador to French Morocco hadn’t upset Berlin much at all. Aha. So Hitler wasn’t too keen on his Moroccan office-holder.

So what now for the Canadian Intel. officer. The ‘routine procedure’ for Max in this case is to execute his wife, the mother of his baby daughter.

This is the part of the movie where Pitt fires up. He and Marianne throw a big party where Max tries to identify Marianne’s handler and contacts among the guests.

Prime among the suspects is a local suburban jeweller but Max reasons there may be one or two more.

Can he save Marianne and exonerate himself or has her betrayal placed her beyond salvation?

I have to say here I can’t believe how impeccably dressed Pitt and Cotillard are. It’s the early to mid 1940s, for goodness sake.

Pitt’s double-breasted suits during the Moroccan sojourn are completely rumple-free. And there’s not a curled-up shirt collar to be seen. Ditto his wing commander’s air force clothes when he’s back in London.

Cotillard’s wardrobe could have come from the most chic Paris fashion designer of the time. She’s a French Resistance operative not an haute couture model!

Back to the military attire. Have a look at actual photos of Aussie and Brit. wartime uniforms of the period.

They were appallingly cut and ill-fitting, as the wardrobe people in the long-running TV series Foyle’s War made sure we saw.

Another point or two to make. Max scouts around for liquor for the house party he and Marianne are throwing.

How on earth could a military officer of wing commander status obtain a dozen bottles of whisky, just like that, without engaging a black market operative?

Plus Max’s sister conducts an open lesbian affair with her lover. This is the Forties, folks. That sort of behaviour was unthinkable back then.

And we can discount the rumours about the alleged off-screen affair between Pitt and Cotillard, supposedly leading to the break-up of the Brangelina marriage.

It’s what President Trump would label ‘fake media’ and renowned film critics have dismissed the tales as tawdry and made-up.

We debated about whether we should go to see this movie even though it’s been in cinemas here since mid-December. In retrospect, maybe we should have just opted for a showing at a family home on Netflix rather than trotting along to Carlton’s Nova complex on a hot February weekend.


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