With some people you never quite know whether what they say is what they mean. Take our Editor for instance who recently started going to a local book club hosted by Mrs Smythe, a keen reader herself. Mrs Smythe was also known for her fondness for food and had prepared a buffet for all the attending members and sometimes a bit of karaoke too which was nearly always something from Chris deBurgh’s back catalogue. Having discussed some classic books, sung some songs and had something to eat our Editor returned home only for his wife to ask how his first meeting at the book club had gone. ‘It was marvellous’, he said, ‘Mrs Smythe offered me a finger buffet and she offered us her wobbly blancmanges whilst she helped herself to a cocktail sausage. Then I had a go with The Lady in Red and then Mrs Smythe and me did 3 Men in a Boat!’. It will come as no surprise that the Editor is currently sleeping in his shed.
It only goes to show how not everything is at it seems and this week’s new release, ‘Allied’ follows Brad Pitt as an intelligence officer parachuting into Casablanca and meeting a French resistance fighter Marion Cotillard for the first time and having to pass themselves off as a glamourously socialite husband and wife. Pitt spends much of this part of the film speaking French which is a credit to either him as an actor or the special effects department as it’s all very convincing.
It’s one of many charades they have to pass off as both are on a mission to assassinate a high ranking German officer and the first part of the film shows them getting to know each other in preparation for the attempt but at the same time almost inevitably falling in love. Their whirlwind romance all comes to a….um….climax when they consummate their love in the desert in a car as an ever tumultuous sandstorm whips up around them in a technically virtuoso sequence.
On their return to dear old Blighty they resolve to marry and have a child but from the very outset Pitt’s commander in chief played with stiff upper lippedness by Jared Harris warns him against it saying that these things never last. And it’s not long before Pitt is put to the test by a senior intelligence officer. Summoned to a basement where tradition has it that secrets are revealed (a later scene in a police station’s basement also has a similar moment) an officer from ‘V’ section a covert intelligence department, drops the bombshell that his wife is suspected of being a German spy and that they will be running a bluff operation which in 72 hours will confirm the truth . It’s made all the worse for Pitt who, unwilling to concede that she might be a spy, is told that if she is he must execute her himself and if he doesn’t then he will be taken to be colluding with her and he will be executed for treason. It’s this doubt as to whether she is or isn’t that drives the rest of the film as Pitt determines to find out the truth for himself.
Like the final scene in, ‘Seven’, Pitt is well suited to the roles which show him wracked with doubt and in utter turmoil unable to even concede that his wife, the mother of their new born baby, might be an enemy spy and the implications that this might have. With the unfortunate circumstances he’s living at the moment they’re emotions he’s probably living out at present and Cotillard handles the ‘is she – isn’t she’ role well with subtle nuances.
For director Robert Zemeckis this is something of a return to form after the costly failure of ‘The Walk’ although with significant chunks played with subtitles it’ll be a challenge to see if US audiences take to this (although Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds showed that US audiences can deal with subtitles). Zemeckis has always been at home with effects and ‘Allied’ shows how well he handles these sequences without drawing attention to themselves – one scene has Pitt land a biplane and get out all in one shot, whilst another has him parachute from a height, land and walk off and there are a decent set pieces at a German officers party and an exciting sequence with the French resistance in a police station.
‘Allied’ is a far from catchy or even memorable title but the film plays like a cross between ‘Casablanca’ and Hitchcock’s ‘Notorious’ and whilst the outcome is never really in doubt despite a rather slow start it’s an entertaining two hours that gets you there.
Here’s the trailer…….