Allied (2016): WWII Spy Romance and Brad Pitt’s Still Face

Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard in Allied

Written  by Steven Knight and directed by Oscar winning Robert Zemeckis,  Allied is a romantic spy tale set in WWII. Starring the beautiful and talented Marion Cotillard  and the somewhat still-faced Brad Pitt. The story, one of love and betrayal in England during the second “big” war, is well done and entertaining, although perhaps a bit too transparent in places. 

The main problem with Allied is Pitt’s immobile face. Whether the recently divorced male half of “Brangelina” has opted for plastic surgery to erase those signs of character, aka crow’s feet and laugh lines or gone the botox and collagen route to plump out and freeze his features is unclear.

What is certain is that there is no real physical chemistry between Pitt and his romantic lead. To her credit, Collitard evokes enough emotion to almost make up the lack of response from Pitt, but it is not enough.

To be fair, cinematic acting is on the “down-low,” in other words; the best acting is down played and low key. However, the complete lack of expression on Pitt’s face removes any nuances of romantic interest. In fact, the actor has no facial reaction to anything.

Because of this lack of reaction, it seems that perhaps Pitt has opted for botox, which freezes the face and done some plumping up with collagen. While he looks years younger, it has hurt his performance in this instance. The end result is a one-sided love affair, with Cotillard convincing the audience that as a suspected double-agent, she really has given it all up for Pitt (Wing Commander Vatan).

While the film can be seen as a variation on Mr & Mrs Smith, without the humor, or indeed, the former Mrs. Pitt,  it was entertaining enough that I never found myself looking for the old English electric sockets during the domestic scenes.

(I did, however, find myself noting that the set designers made sure that every thing was glossed, with multiple layers, including the older stair post seen in several scenes.)

There are some gaffes, such as having a party during the Blitz with all the window shades wide open and there were other black out conditions that were ignored, but overall things moved along well enough that these moments did not distract too much.

The biggest problem with Allied is the film’s male lead. Pitt could almost be sleepwalking through his role and it is this, combined with that immovable face, that lets the film and his co-star Cotillard down badly.

From the very start of the film I spent more time on wondering what was going on with Pitt’s features, and their lack of movement and previously spotted lines and creases, than the plot or the storyline. This preoccupation almost kept me from noticing the relevancy of the Casablanca storyline.

There are nice touches in the film. Pitt’s character reads a Graham Greene novel in one of the scenes, where he has to plant evidence to convict his wife, and it is a clever addition to the film. Greene was a brilliant writer who turned out a number of spy stories; each one a cracking tale, and this nod and wink was well done.

Overall, Allied is a 4 star film. Despite Pitt’s painfully obvious lack of emotion, the tale entertains. Cotillard convinces, as does Jared Harris, but the main male protagonist badly lets the side down here.

The film is available on DVD and can be streamed via the major platforms on the internet. Have a look at the trailer below:

Booze, Bullets & Broads: Martini Required

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I first heard about the Matt Helm films after my parents had gone to the cinema to see Murderer’s Row. I was very excited about the whole thing because Dean Martin was a Smith household favourite. I was crushed when my parents returned and told me that the film was a bit too risqué” for someone of my tender years.

What I did instead of sneaking out to watch the film was borrow one of my dad’s copies of the Matt Helm series written by Donald Hamilton. I fell in love with the books and I started trying to read every single one in the series.

Later when I was actually able to watch the Matt Helm films, courtesy of American television complete with censored bits and cuts to allow for commercials, I found that the producers had opted to make the films all “Action/Comedies.” With Dino as Helm, it worked.

Booze, Bullets & Broads by Bruce Scivally is a loving look at the four films made with Martin in them and a look at how they differed from the books they were “adapted” from. He also talks about the “players” and how they developed the idea for an American James Bond. He traces the beginning of the idea of an US equivalent to the English “shaken-not-stirred” martini man and how it evolved into the “spoof” format that it became.

Producer Irving Allen, the former partner of Cubby Broccoli and all around ‘Mr Personality’ – not, was the genius behind the idea of the films. He spotted a Matt Helm paperback in an airport. Contacting the author Donald Hamilton, he bought the film rights to all the existing books in the series. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Anyone who has had the pleasure of reading Mr Hamilton’s Matt Helm series will know that the literary version of the “super-spook” is a complete 180 degree turn from the celluloid Helm as portrayed by Dean Martin. As I said, I got hooked on the books at an early age and I still firmly believe that if they did a more “accurate” adaptation of them, the films would break box-office records.

Still, the movies were entertaining, not very well made (as Scivally points out) but funny, irreverent, and full of the most beautiful women at that time. I mean, seriously, who would not rate Stella Stevens or Ann Margaret (not to mention Cyd Charisse) as the most beautiful women..ever?

Scivally also charts the downward trend of the films and their falling box office receipts. If you watch the films today you’ll notice that they’ve not aged well at all and unless you are a die-hard fan of old Dino, you probably won’t know what all the fuss was about. I still enjoy them and will one day own all of them on DVD.

On a sad side note, Sharon Tate was in the third film The Ambushers. In-between that film’s release and the final film’s shooting started (she was meant to be in the fourth film as well) the heavily pregnant Tate was, of course, brutally slaughtered by members of the Manson Family.

This has always put a bit of a dampener on the film for me.

Still, if you are a fan of the films and the books, you’ll like this look at the franchise (s). This Kindle book sells for just over 2 pounds so it’s affordable enough and not too taxing a read. Be warned though, if you are already a Dean Martin fan, you’re not likely to learn anything new about the man or his films, but the bits of trivia that Scivally has included in the book is at least entertaining.

A 3.5 stars out of 5 with a temptation to give it a full 4 stars just because of the subject matter.

Dino and Ann Margaret.
Dino and Ann Margaret.