Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Episode Zero
What is it about spies that inspires Brad Pitt to cheat on his wife? I know this is only the second time it happened, but it’s kind of a weird coincidence. Anywho, we got another weird spy thriller that comes out around Oscar season to try to sneak in for awards season and possibly get some coverage through the shows, mainly the Golden Globes (like the time The Tourist got a bunch press despite being pretty mediocre). Only difference this time is a pretty unique setting in World War II and a genuinely interesting plot…that got completely spoiled in the trailer. Does the movie manage to hold its own with an aggressive marketing campaign, an R-rating, and a scandalous affair all hovering over it? Let’s dive in.
Brad Pitt plays a Canadian pilot named Max jumping into French Morocco now under Nazi control in 1942. He meets up with a French Resistance fighter named Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard) to execute an assassination plot against a German ambassador. Marianne is shown to fabricate very in-depth fabrications of both Max and her’s life to divert any suspicions of their plans, while she simultaneously tries to and succeeds in seducing Max. After their mission, they return to London together, get married, and have a baby, the end…oh wait, there’s something off about their relationship that could doom them both.
Before you cry spoilers, keep in mind that the film’s own trailer gives you a similar synopsis, and honestly it takes the wind out of the reveal in the halfway point in the film. I wouldn’t call it a twist as the foreshadowing is laid on thick, but I’d prefer something that’s strongly telling the audience that something’s not right throughout a movie rather than pull a Shyamalan-esque twist at the very end leaving you confused and pissed off. So as a narrative the film is fine, so how do the leads compare?
Well Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard unsurprisingly have a great chemistry with each other. Pitt’s no-nonsense attitude contrasted with Cotillard’s sultry performance makes for interesting viewing that you can reasonably believe these two want to bone each other silly on camera (and off camera). And while you can feel the physical attraction, it takes way too long before you actually see the marriage level of attraction. So it’s a weird disconnect when Pitt proposes to Cotillard, because you can tell it’s rushed. It’s not until the end of the film do you see genuine love between these characters, but the ending is critical and entirely dependent on their emotional connection that the climax doesn’t feel earned.
Now that may be the fault of the director, Robert Zemickis, who’s a brilliant technical director but can be all over the place when it comes to the heart of certain characters. He’s made classics like Back to the Future back in the day, but he began focusing on the technology for filmmaking with The Polar Express, then slowly embracing some disastrously bad trends with Beowulf and Mars Needs Moms. Since Flight, however, he’s focused on delivering more dramatic scenes coated in all his favorite technologies. And it’s a better turn for the long time director even if he isn’t so amazing on the “drama.”
For instance, it’s not enough for his couple to make love for the first time. No, he wants you to witness them do it in a car trapped in a sandstorm. It’s n enough for him to show you the birth of their child. Fuck that, he’s gonna show you the birth in the middle of the goddamn Blitz with fire and limbs going everywhere. So it’s overkill, but it’s the good type of overkill because it’s visually interesting and something exciting. But if these scenes are well and good, then why am I not in love with this?
I guess because the film is just alright. Much like The Girl on the Train, it’s a good movie but it doesn’t do anythng new and it just doesn’t connect in any way that stirs my spirits like Moonlight or Sing Street…and those two films pulled their connection with a tiny fraction of what this film had. Now those movies had the strength of a heartfelt script, but what about a thriller? Well, Hell or High Water and Eye in the Sky both wound me up in all the right ways, but those films had the benefit of solid, three dimensional characters put through an intense situation.
While Allied has an intense situation, the characters are just not deep or interesting enough for me to be completely invested and declare this to be a great film. It’s fine, it’s competent, it’s workmanlike. But it’s a film with pretensions towards greatness, even cribbing off plot details similar to a famous Alfred Hitchcock story, Notorious. But it doesn’t have anything new to add on its own.
So as it stands this is getting from me a very high…