Allied online movie review - Casablanca It Ain't
The Academy Award-winning 1942 motion picture Casablanca has become a legend of filmmaking, almost a part of folklore, by being as perfect a movie as is possible.
A triumph of cohesion, not a scene or a line of dialogue is wasted?every single word and frame of film points to the climactic scene in which most of the the cast is present, all plot lines are resolved, and all the picture's mysteries solved?and which many film fans have memorized and can recite, word-for-word.
Robert Zemeckis, the director of Paramount's Allied, apparently believes that by fashioning his film on Casablanca, some of the magic of the 1942 picture will rub off on his. It doesn't. And that's a shame, because if the picture were truly a sum of its parts, Allied would be a wonderful experience.
But unlike Casablanca, the individual scenes of Allied do not add up to a complete picture. Rather, the diverse parts of the movie look as if they've been snipped from other, better pictures, and cobbled together by screenwriter Steven Knight for Zemeckis to direct.
Zemeckis, originally a Steven Spielberg protégé and an acknowledged expert on older movies, gets into the spirit of Knight's script by designing and positioning his shots in a manner reminiscent of scenes from other popular movies. As a director, Robert Zemeckis has always been more derivative than innovative, and any viewer who's seen Algiers or The English Patient, or even Out of Africa or Gone With the Wind, will likely leave Allied with a sense of déjà vu, a nagging suspicion that he or she has seen has seen the picture somewhere else.
In Allied, a crack Canadian counterintelligence agent played by Brad Pitt parachutes into French Morocco during the early days of World War II and makes his way to Casablanca to rendezvous with a member of the French resistance, played by Marion Cotillard. Their mission is to do some spy stuff together and then scoot back to London. Naturally they fall in love. And that's just the beginning of a picture which stretches credibility more and more with each of its passing 124 minutes.
Allied is a triumph of production design and costuming, but that's really not saying all that much. Pitt and Cotillard are attractive people and they look swell in the picture. When you dress them up in the smartest retro-chic wardrobe and set them loose in the trendiest wartime nightclubs in Casablanca, they look as if they just stepped from the pages of the Giorgio Armani catalog?although during the daytime scenes they sport elaborate sunglasses which almost scream Hey, we're spies!
Which leads to another difficulty with Allied: The anachronisms. In any motion picture, authenticity is essential to maintaining a successful illusion. In Allied, that's where the seams really begin to show. Key sequences take place during nighttime German bombing raids over London in 1942 through 1944?yes, the movie does cover some ground. But nobody seems to realize that the last major German bombing raids on London occurred fairly early in 1941, before Hitler turned east and attacked the Soviet Union.
But that's incidental to a picture in which World War II is little more than a plot device to enable the characters to participate illogically in exciting adventures. At one point, for narrow personal reasons Pitt's character steals an RAF airplane and dashes off to occupied France, and then promptly upon arrival accidentally instigates a melee between the French resistance and German soldiers.
In the very next scene, Pitt astonishingly appears back in London looking somewhat the worse for wear?exhausted and stylishly disheveled, but without an explanation of what happened to his companions in France or how he got back to England in such a big fat hurry. In reality, had the officer made it back alive he'd undoubtedly have been court-martialed. Pitt's character apparently works for an especially casual branch of the wartime military.
And in fact, Pitt's performance begins and ends with his physical appearance and his costuming. The actor looks properly dapper and dashing in his military uniform, and his formal attire and civilian clothing are stylish. But any real attempt at characterization seems to have been left behind either in Pitt's dressing room or in the supermarket tabloids.
Marion Cotillard, a genuinely talented actress who received an Academy Award for her performance as Edith Piaf in 2007's La Vie en Rose, reads her lines?especially the occasional subtitled French-language dialogue?with spirit and conviction. But she seems distracted, as if she's trying to remember somewhere else she's supposed to be.
In one early scene, Pitt's character is described by Cotillard as a poker-playing expert. As a test, a German agent gives Pitt a deck of cards to shuffle. After a brief pause to gain suspense?Can he do it??Pitt's character spends the next minute or two performing card maneuvers mesmerizing enough to make Houdini proud.
But the filmmakers don't even bother to create the illusion that it's Pitt performing the tricks. Only in the last shot of the scene, in which the actor himself performs one clumsy little shuffle, does Pitt's face appear in the same shot as the cards.
That scene can serve as a metaphor for the entire picture. Essentially Allied is a clumsy diversion, a sleight-of-hand trick to distract the viewer from the fact that he's seen it all before, in better movies. Allied is a dumb movie masquerading as a smart one. If you want to see attractive people in stylish clothes and colorful situations, this is the movie for you. But if you want to see a compelling, believable drama about wartime romance, skip it.
Or better yet, just watch Casablanca again.