Movie Review: Allied – What this is about and what it is not about
The movie Allied was a friend’s choice for their birthday and therefore became our lot. Thankfully I did not mind, but it was not my first choice in spite of hearing positive reviews calling it the film of the year. I guess there had been so much publicity surrounding both Brad Pitt and incidentally Marillon Cotillard that I felt that going to watch their film was just adding to it. The trailer had whet the appetites of those who had been holding a grudge on behalf of Jennifer Aniston, hoping that indeed Karma was getting back at the couple baptised Brangelina and that the movie would be the cinematographic version of a vengeful fate, for lack of visualisation of the events in real life. While I believe the film should be grateful to Angelina for the “publicity”, I am extremely uninterested beyond the previous words, to draw any parallel between reality and fiction. All that is of interest to us is the movie. So here we go.
There should not really be a need to remind anyone of this but I will do it all the same for legal purposes (lol) and just to cover myself or well just in case really. BEWARE SPOILERS!!!
Brad Pitt plays the Canadian (Quebecois) Max Vatan and Marion Cotillard plays Marianne Beausejour in a film based on a true story of feelings and how to hold them back or express them fully, betrayal and the aftermaths.
Movie Review: Allied – The fragility of hope
This is a story that takes place during World War II. You can feel the closeness of it, in the breathing, in the explosions, in the rush, in the panic, in every breath held as the ransom of a semblance of peace, in the desperation, in the killings, in the immense sense of survival that surrounds an environment taken over by nazis and their swatzikas, a positive symbol turned by these anti-semitics into a symbol of evil, just like the negative effect they were having on their environment and the onhope within it.
That negative feeling takes slowly over every human, whether they are heroes or victims, killers or victims, conquerors or victims. It suddenly justifies evil or letting go whatever reason the challenge gives. But more than seeing hope like the light it is, dancing as the life it represents, exposed to the wind of those uncoordinated (in spite of efforts to the opposite) precipitations, this very fragility of hope, it is something else that grabs the viewer, much deeper, at the very heart of what they can see and feel of fear and pain.
This most frightening feeling was not actually the closeness of the bombs. It was not the fact that their explosions looked so beautiful that they confused us within, reminded us of how sumptuous the dresses of death can be and how their cloth can so magnificently veil the fate that they carry. It was not even to realise how close betrayal could be and that in fact you could not just be living with it, you could be sleeping with it, be intimate with it. It would have been there, with the unfair opportunity of sneaking upon you at your most unconscious and vulnerable, a feeling that makes emotional claustrophobia real, especially with each close-up camera angle.
This most frightening feeling is not experiencing the constant requirement to trap your real feelings inside for fear they will betray you and cause your demise, to paraphrase a comment uttered by the movie heroine. A spy, more than any other person should know their lives depends on the focused application of such knowledge and our two lovers have mostly been the best spies before being reminded in spite of themselves that they were human first.
This most frightening feeling is not even the fact that once you chose to be a fighter rather than a victim, the more you survive, the more dangerous it becomes for you as you are more easily recognised. It is not even the fact that the more you survive, the more you dare to hope, the more you dare to hope, the more you dare to break some rules, like letting go, daring to let yourself feel, getting married to a stranger, giving birth to a child in the middle of war.
I think the most frightening feeling in this film is actually the subtle reminder of how unforgiving (with all the extremes that might entail) and actually how quite lethal humans can be when they are thrown back and surrender to their basic instinct of survival.
There is a real unease when love thinks it is betrayed. The lover’s world is shattered in spite of his apparent stubborn faith, when he is told that his wife has betrayed the alliance. It is no longer just about the allies that fought the oppression of war and its nazis. It is the allies that they have been, accomplices in the crime of love in the very world that felt like it no longer allowed it, especially for two spies. The unease is not in the realisation of possible betrayal, that is a shock. The unease is at the reaction to it, when the lover joins his wife in bed. Their sexual moment is not romantic, borrowing the character’s confusion, desperation, crumbling faith at the shots of doubt. The camera fails to distract the viewer with Pitt’s derrière, with the hiding of the wife’s face, or maybe tries to show us just that feeling in more subtlety than we would have expected. A forced smile later betrays the euphemism as the heroine mentions how “different” the “lovemaking” was.
Conclusion: Allied indeed
The film could have had so many names because there were so many subthemes that supported the main one: the love of two people in the middle of a situation that threatens these very feelings at every corner of their small space, at every breath of their small lives. I would have dared calling it “a candle in the wind” if that name was not already the proverbial title of the lives of Norma Jeane Baker and Lady Di, according to Elton John.
They seem to have been thrown together in what boils down to an arranged marriage, where maybe fate maybe love seem to have a bigger hand than war, fear and survival in allowing the birth of this couple. A number of film titles come to mind, not least as the love settings in time and space evoke a certain Casablanca if the name wasn’t previously taken. But in its very unwinding and outcome, it showed its true colours, as no less no more than Allied, indeed. On the ashes of war, adversity, doubt, fear, each unsettling moment of worry, there can be hope, be it for peace or for love.
In the end, the film kindled a strong sentiment. But it remains difficult to ascertain that it came from more that a few great moments, a pair of great actors, that the poignancy relates to the movie’s basis in reality, or the romance (although my daughter did not feel it). The film certainly succeeded in passing the idea of a beautiful story no matter how tragic the end. But I still feel it could have done better by minimising the artificially inserted emotional triggers, giving us more subtle camera work, and legitimising the romance between the two main characters with a tiny more pre-wedding exposition (albeit subtle).
There is no doubt about Marillon Cotillard’s charm and acting as Marianne Beausejour. We just needed to see how Brad Pitt’s character would fall in love with her rather than just want her because she is hot, in more ways than one under the Morrocan sun. Brad Pitt once more assumes the role of the Canadian saviour which partly is more annoying than redeeming, especially as his Quebecois is thoroughly unconvincing, but still offers enough good acting to hold his side of the bargain. The problem lies in the believability of their love, which like a number of elements of the film , seem to rely more on external factors than the completeness of the delivered art work. So it is the beauty of the idea, strengthened by its basis in reality, carried by great marketing, with the gaps in the mise en scène filled by star power, those few great moments in the film and our own imagination that means the movie only gets a 7 from us.