Blowing sand doesn’t usually stir one to coitus, but even one reviewer could not help getting confused with French actress’ Marion Cotillard surname. ” Coitillard” is easy to explain away. Yes, it is the sex scenes between Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard that we will remember. Reminiscent of the torrid Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr surf embrace in the 1953 movie “From Here To Eternity, director Robert Zemeckis does his own magic with hot, swirling sand.
Most of the action takes place in 1942-45 war-weary London, yet there are the sweeping sand ridges of French Morocco to broaden the scene. Director Zemeckis, a Chicago native of Polish descent, is superb at fresh visual takes on superimposed North Africa. We initially hear the sound of a single prop plane, see day break on the horizon , and then as we are settling in, we are startled at the dangling, booted-legs of Max Vatan. The intelligence officer is in front of us like a deus ex machina.
Brad Pitt is the sumptuous Max ready for his orders. Unlike Lawrence of Arabia, his feet crunch the sand and his garb blends with the tawny taupes of desert espionage. Screenwriter, Steven Knight, provides almost campy dialogue as Max is handed a wedding band from his driver and told that his wife “..will be wearing a purple dress” ,and ” Look for the hummingbird.” Casablanca, here we come.
If French resistance fighter, Marianne Beausejour, ( love the soap opera-like names) is to be ” the beauty of the day” , her night-time allure overshadows. Marion Cotillard has never looked more worthy of the ” classy hot ” label. Her clothes are worth the price of admission. A rose-gold,shoulder bedazzled, charmeuse gown being my favorite, though there are many others. Lace negligees and silk robes, too. The stars shine brightly, and carry dialogue like, ” Heard a lot about you around the circuit” with aplomb.
Our couple, Max and Marianne, ally and machine-gun-down a German ambassador and a few friends at a dinner dance. The violence is not as difficult to watch as the hand to throat strangulation of a German interrogator in a phone booth. Again, the corny dialogue doesn’t hit you when you are enthralled with star-power. Cotillard’s, “I keep the emotions real.” and, “If we are dead tomorrow, no one will know.” Along with Pitt’s, “We are both alive. Come with me to London and be my wife”, are all permissible in the land of romance and adventure.
As an espionage/thriller, “Allied” is suspenseful. And, oddly, we are not certain if trust matters in this love scenario. It is two against the world, with a baby thrown in for added intensity and eventual succor.
Enjoy Pitt’s poker shuffle, ” that was in the cards” puns, and the sandstorm love-making. The set design and details are lovely: the Nazi ‘s Monte Blanc fountain pens, the English countryside mushroom-picking, the breezy Moroccan rooftops, the Graham Green in-bed reading.
The realism of a baby born amid bombings and the internal workings of the military “rat-catchers” not so true or lovely. I enjoyed the lesbian sister and Max’s trust in her, as well as Max’s whispering in baby Anna’s ear, “It will be okay; it is not true.”
Wounded war veterans are given sympathetic screen time and more allusions to “Casablanca” piano playing layer the rather predictable story arc. New recruits fall when self-interest confuses protocol. Military superiors make humane concessions in the land of “yes, sir” and “no, sir”. If “marriages made in the field rarely work” , at least this tear-jerker steams up the screen with enough complexity to leave you emotionally shaken. Cotillard’s fear, remorse,and resoluteness is absolutely stunning.