Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

Brad Pitt's Allied is a handsome fake

Casablanca, The English Patient, Inglourious Basterds, Notorious, The Man Who Knew Too Much. All great films.

You can find elements of all these in Allied, a throwback World War II espionage saga in which Québécois Canadian intelligence officer Brad Pitt parachutes into the life of fellow spy Marion Cotillard.

Together, they shoot Nazis. They have tomorrow-we-die sex in a Citroen in a sandstorm. They get married, have a baby and attempt to live happily ever after in war-ravaged London.

Brad Pitt plays Max Vatan and Marion Cotillard plays Marianne Beausejour in the film, Allied.
Brad Pitt plays Max Vatan and Marion Cotillard plays Marianne Beausejour in the film, Allied.

But what you can't find in Allied is anything but a handsome homage.

One that might attempt to be a Graham Greene-esque thriller (Pitt's character has The Ministry of Fear as bedside reading) but can't sustain itself after a rip-roaring start nor can it generate much heat in the chemistry between the two leads.

It also can't seem to marry all that retro high style - this looks like WWII as styled by Ralph Lauren - and its museum piece sensibilities with wanting to be something rather more modern: A depiction of hedonism during the Blitz.

It feels as if, having started out as a movie that is pretty much Mr and Mrs Indiana Jones for the first hour, there's been a script note from on high: More sex and drugs please.

Cue the now-married-for-real spies throwing a house party that delivers amphetamine sniffing, lesbian pashing, and bonking in every cupboard.

There might be a war on, you see, but it does feel one of many touches to this which range from curiously incongruous to only-in-the-movies implausible.

True, it is a movie made of other movies not of history. One where spies look like film stars and there's more silk in their combined wardrobes than that aforementioned parachute.

Pitt and Cotillard would seem well cast. He's dashing. She's elegant. They are lethal in their own way - Pitt's Max Vatan kills his first Nazi with the aid of a macaron; Cotlillard's Marianne kills hers with a sten gun while wearing an evening dress that, aptly, is just to die for.

They've rendezvoused as faux husband and wife in French Morocco where Marianne, a French resistance fighter, has a job in the Vichy administration based in, yes, Casablanca.

The movie sure plays it again, Sam. Even the ending involves an airfield and a plane and as it did in Casablanca the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, provides a pivotal point.

Brad Pitt plays Max Vatan and Marion Cotillard plays Marianne Beausejour in the film, Allied.
Brad Pitt plays Max Vatan and Marion Cotillard plays Marianne Beausejour in the film, Allied.

By then Allied has unravelled badly and veered into sludgy plot-stopping sentimentality.

As the trailers tell us, it might seem that Madame Vatan is not who she says she is. Max must find out the truth about his wife. Otherwise, in the words of another famous Québécois, it's so long Marianne.

Max's detective efforts are strenuous. Along the way, Pitt adds considerably to the sizeable Nazi body count he achieved in Inglourious Basterds and Fury.

But that's about the sum of his achievements here. It's a weak performance from him with Cotillard doing most of the heavy lifting.

It's her job to ponders the film's big question: What happens when spies fake their feelings?

The problem here is how Allied replies with an emotionally hollow movie which is cribbed from so many others.

Early on Marianne hassles Max for his dodgy Parisian accent. It soon had me wondering, if, on the banks of the Seine, the Saint Lawrence or even at the bar of Rick's Café American, "déjà vu" sounds any different.

Allied's strong sense of déjà vu sure makes it look nice. But it sure doesn't help make it a great film.

Verdict: Play it again, Brad.

Cast: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Rating: M (Violence, offensive language, sex scenes & content that may disturb)
Running time: 120 mins

- TimeOut

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