Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Je t'aime, mon Québécois: Revisiting 'Allied'

There are no doubts that Robert Zemeckis is one of the most talented filmmakers ever. In more than one film he manages to touch the most unreachable strings of anyone's soul, giving the audiences the lowest emotional blows that no emotionally strong alpha male could ever resist. 2016's Allied is certainly not an exception as the story revolves in one of the world's darkest hours: World War II, when Europe was cornered by the deadly Nazi forces and the Luftwaffe dropped bombs all over England.

Theatrical poster for Allied.
It all began with a screenwriter Steven Knight remembering a story he heard when he was 21 years old, about an Allied officer marrying the female agent he had to work with. A time after their son was born, his superiors ordered him to kill her with concrete evidence that she was a German double agent.

This was the basis of Allied, where Canadian RAF commander Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) is sent on an assasination mission in the French Morocco, where he meets his liason Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard), posing as his wife until the mission is accomplished. At first, they'll resist falling for each other, but the physical and emotional connection between the two will grow significantly after they get the job done and miraculously escape alive.

Years later, after Max and Marianne marry and have a daughter, he is summoned by Section V of the Secret Intelligence Service and told that Marianne Beausejour was dead and replaced by a woman looking very much alike, and that their target in Morocco was actually a Hitler dissident. Max is ordered to run a "blue dye" on her: leave a fake important message to see if she reports it to Germany. If she does, he'll have to kill her or they'll be both executed for treason.

The story is also very reminiscent to the very las pages of Ian Fleming's Casino Royale, where Bond discovers his very much beloved Vesper was a double agent after she commits suicide not bearing with the guilt and the posibility they could both be hunted down. In comparison, Allied extends that premise by having Max presented with the facts and having to act, standing on a crossroad between the flag and the woman he loves.

While Brad Pitt feels a bit unemotional on his performance as Max, Marion Cotillard makes an exceptional role. Perhaps one of the best of her career. The French actress is incredibly convincing as both a cold and self-reliant agent of the French Ressistance and as the caring and loving wife every man would dream of. Despite the cloud of doubt floating avobe the loyalties of her character, it's hard not to fall for her and not to feel her every time as much as his husband does. She was, without a shadow of doubt, the right actress for the role.
Marianne (Marion Cotillard) and Max (Brad Pitt) in a scene set in Casablanca in the fiction.
The detail of the production design by Gary Freeman and the costumes by Joanna Johnston is outstanding.

"C'est moi. This is the real me," she tells Max as she hugs him in tears, while she's giving birth to their daughter Anna in the middle of an air-raided London.

Robert Zemeckis brings back the glory of his Forrest Gump days with this movie: the soundtrack -also by Alan Silvestri- has the same emotional charge as the one of the highly acclaimed 1994 film. A good mixture between the soft wind instruments underlining the ill-fated romance between Max and Marianne and the intense and fast percussion cues of the war scenes. The setting of the movie in the 1940s was also very detailed: Marion Cotillard's costumes designed by Joanna Johnston resembled the times with very chic designs, so was Brad Pitt's black tuxedo and cream three-piece suits, very suitable for the hot climate of Morocco.

"The movie is a romance at its core, so the production design was always done with an eye towards being romantic", commented Zemeckis. "When we start the film in Casablanca we wanted it to evoke the Casablanca that we know from the movie Casablanca".

The happy days of Max and Marianne.

Production designer Gary Freeman took attention to every detail to turn the Moroccan city into a North African version of the French Riviera as it was during the days where Morocco belonged to France. It is with the great team work made by Freeman, Silvestri and Johnston that we fall in love with an exotic and romantic story right from the very beginning: the people in charge of the set design, the soundtrack and the costume design succeed in making the film beliavable, sexy and intense.

As the story moves to London, the costumes and sets change to provide a darker related to the days of Wartime. The Special Operations Executive office were based on Winston Churchill's claustrophobic offices inside a bunker and the cottage where Max and Marianne live has small rooms as it was fashionable back then. Gary Freeman often used the same location or building to prepare three different sets, and the changes went unnoticed.

The same happened with Marianne's clothing, which are much opaque incomparison to her colorful costumes from the Moroccan scenes. And the cinematographic palette offers an abrupt change between the gold and red hues of the desert and nightclubs to the desaturated colours of the Wartime London, showcasing Max's inner feelings as he is facing the posibility that his wife may be betraying him and his country.

Allied is a masterpiece, a movie that seduces and makes you cry. It can be defined as a war film, a drama or a romance, with the balance inclined much more towards the latter. A story on how could true love prevail over war. On how true love could prevail over masquerades, betrayals, deceit and even death.

Nicolás Suszczyk

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