dir Robert Zemeckis
scr Steven Knight
prd Graham King, Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis
with Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris, Lizzy Caplan, Simon McBurney, Matthew Goode, Marion Bailey, Daniel Betts, Anton Lesser, August Diehl, Thierry Fremont, Camille Cottin
release US/UK 25.Nov.16
16/UK Paramount 2h04
Undercover lovers: Pitt and Cotillard

harris caplan goode
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Allied Intriguing and involving but overproduced, this wartime romantic thriller has a lavish look, a strong cast and a twisty Hitchcockian script, but the gentle pacing and too-slick production design prevents the film from generating the desired oomph. And a few corny surges of sentimentality further throw off the balance.

In 1942 Casablanca, Canadian pilot Max (Pitt) and French resistance fighter Marianne (Cotillard) go undercover as a couple to worm their way into a party and kill a top Nazi official. In the process, their fake marriage blossoms into real love. So after their adventure, Marianne moves to London to start a family with Max. A year later, British officials (Harris and McBurney) tell Max that they suspect that Marianne has been a German spy all along. If he can't prove her innocence, they will prove her guilt. And he'll be ordered to kill her.

Of course, this causes a wave of suspicion to overwhelm Max, threatening his idyllic life in Hampstead with his beloved wife and young daughter. Director Zemeckis stages scenes so spotlessly that everything looks digital, including the never-before-worn costumes, immaculate sets and expansive action set-pieces. Even in a lusty Moroccan stand-storm, every grain seems to be precisely choreographed. And there's no point where the crew had to make one plane work effectively when they could have 20 instead. In other words, there is no space in this film for a blast of unexpected life.

Pitt gives one of his more convincing performances as the contained, conflicted officer trying to prove his wife's innocence. Perhaps this is because Max is supposed to look secretive and muted, but he nicely brings the wrenching inner chaos to the surface. Cotillard is more openly emotional, investing each scene with intelligence and romantic energy. She may sometimes seem constrained by the scenery, but she creates a character who is likeable even if she does turn out to be a Nazi spy. Side roles are so small that they only rarely register, but everyone and everything looks impeccable.

Knight's script has a nice edge to it, inverting Casablanca with some terrific undulations that challenge and shift audience sympathy. Clearly a lower-budget, scrappier approach would have given the entire movie a much more potent kick, making almost every sequence utterly riveting. As is, it's simply too soft and staged. So even though the resonant themes and bigger issues ring true, the film feels like it's been fully animated for no real reason.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 21.Nov.16

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