‘Allied’ Review: Robert Zemeckis Directs A Tonally Jumbled War Thriller

Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard disappoints in an all-around hit and miss thriller

You know when you have two brilliant ideas but just can’t pick one? Yes? Well, Robert Zemeckis feels your pain. On the one hand, Zemeckis wants to tell a story about two agents who fall in love with each other and on the contrary, he intends to tell a story about a doubtful relationship. Although, both are great ideas and none of them get the attention they fully deserve.

During WWII, an agent by the name of Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) gets set up with a beautiful French girl named Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard). Both of the missions are clear – to take down a German official. At first, they both act as husband and wife before beginning to fall in love.

Just when things look to be in the right direction, Max gets a phone call from his superior. This call is an important one as they reveal to him that suspicion has risen that his loving wife may actually be a German spy. If this is proven to be true, Max will have no other choice but to kill her himself.

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Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard lack chemistry in this war romance-thriller

Allied has its moments of pure joy, and that is exactly why it is hard to forgive its flaws. When moments of pure dread and suspense happen, the movie feels fresh. Each character is pinned against each other, and the anxiety is ready to rise. However, the tone constantly changes, and it does it always do it with ease. The change to romance halts the movie without ever giving Pitt and Cotillard’s characters some depth.

Speaking of Pitt and Cotillard, they both look bored and uninspired throughout the film. Pitt’s quiet voice down to Earth style of acting only comes off as boring. Cotillard, while better, does not fully commit to her intelligent livelier character. What is weirder is that the changes in their characters are abrupt and it does not work. Allied‘s shift in tones proves a challenge for both actors.

On written paper, Allied should work except that everything that should work about a spy thriller fails. A bright spot is that of the accurate depiction of the aesthetic of the era. Joanna Johnston’s (Lincoln) costume designs are a thing of beauty, capturing both the vintage and the vibrancy of the period. What everyone loves about the era of the war is stuffed in the movie. However, the style is all that Allied has. Screenwriter Steven Knight (Locke) failed to create the ticking bomb effect that is so important in a thriller. Also, Knight fails to create a compelling love story between both uninspired actors.

It is ironic that even something as nerve wracking as war cannot offer a bit of suspense to Allied. Pitt and Cotillard cannot find the dazzling chemistry that is needed to compensate for the movie’s many flaws. Vaguely similar to The Light Between Oceans, both actors are stuck in a hollow romance thriller that is all style and no substance.

GRADE: C

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‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is a powerful Christian war story – REVIEW

Mel Gibson makes a comeback, and it may be his best-directed movie to date

Violent wars have been an intrigue to many directors over the past couple decades. Crafting war scenes is fun and probably the main reason a director chooses to re-tell a WWII story. But what if that story is centered on an individual who opposes war? One must wonder what is Gibson’s real motive in doing Desmond Dawson’s story. His controversial Passion of the Christ is still widely criticized today for exploiting Jesus’ crucifixion in such a sadistic way. Some will say that Hacksaw Ridge is no different. However, if you can look past Gibson’s struggle between telling a war story and a story about a famous pacifist, then hiding in there is one of his best movie to date.

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Desmond Dawson (Andrew Garfield) is a fascinating figure. Living in a toxic home environment, Dawson is showed first hand the consequences of violence. Being a very religious person, his decision to enlist himself as a medic doesn’t come without personal restrictions. He is not to bear nor touch any loaded weapons. His wish is to go to war without one single protection in his hand. Controversial at first, the jury decides to give him the freedom to go to Hacksaw without any weapons.

Struggling with leaving his newly-wed wife, Dorothy (Teresa Palmer), Dawson must hold on to his beliefs to try and save as many lives as he can. In the end, Hacksaw Ridge becomes more of a moral story about war and how one man changed that morality.

The film’s best strength lies in Garfield’s spectacular portrayal of Desmond Dawson. Staying clear of any over acting or caricaturing, he delivers such a powerful and emotional picture of a soldier. Dawson’s beliefs are at the center and through flashback we learn how that came to be. Just one of the reason Garfield’s character fits perfectly in the serious and dramatic world Gibson has so masterfully crafted.

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Playing very nicely within the movie’s drama is the terrific shots Gibson creates. The war scenes, in particular, shine through. Describing the scenes of Hacksaw as gruesomely beautiful is ironic considering this movie is about a pacifist. Dawson’s ideology on war is very different than Gibson’s visual depiction of war. He directs the camera to let you see every cut, wounds, and bullets piercing through the solidiers’ bodies. There is an irony there can be seen as contradicting to the movie’s values.

At the same time, the war imagery is supposed to be shocking and gruesome. The point of Gibson’s story is to sell you the idea that war is morally incorrect. Therefore, a realistic portrayal of war is needed. There is a fine line between realism and exploitation. Gibson does cross that line more often than not but never does he do it at the expense of its message.

The message certainly gets across clearly thanks to Garfield’s terrific performance. Visually stunning and well-crafted war scenes help you forgive Gibson’s careless carnage. The central message is a timeless one, and the Christian understanding can be understood differently by the secular audience. Getting past the irony of pacifism vs. violence is the movie’s toughest sell. However, never have you seen director Mel Gibson at his finest.

REVIEW: A-