Allied

Director: Robert Zemeckis (2016) BBFC cert: 15

Brad Pitt is torn between love and duty in this muddled Second World War spy drama.

It can’t decide if it wants to be a noirish thriller, a 007 action or an epic wartime romance. As a result some performances struggle, especially a ponderous Brad Pitt.

The Hollywood heavyweight plays Max, an undercover RAF airman who receives a very warm welcome when he parachutes into Nazi occupied French Morocco. Max has extraordinary skill with a deck of cards and can strangle you in all of two languages.

While on a deadly mission to execute a high ranking Nazi, Max falls in love with a glamorous French spy, Marianne. Well, its more romantic than Tinder at any rate. When she is accused of treason, Max has seventy two hours to prove her innocence, or execute her himself.

Marion Cotillard is fabulous as the beautiful secret agent, giving the script a life it doesn’t deserve and doing all the dramatic heavy lifting.

The problems of the poor script are exacerbated by the woefully miscasting of Pitt in a much younger man’s role. The 52 year old is playing an RAF wing commander. Real life wingco Guy Gibson was 24 when he lead his famous Dam Busters raid.

Max is part James Bond and part Rick Blaine, but Pit is too old for the former and lacks the wearied hinterland of the latter. As Pitt is too old then arguably so is Cotillard, though at 41 at least we have a leading man paired with an almost age appropriate co-star.

Pitt sports some well cut suits and a pained expression. He appears to be aiming for enigmatic but it suggests indigestion instead. Pitt executes his brief action moves with the conviction of Roger Moore in his later Bond films.

Pitt’s contemporary Hugh Grant has responded to being freed by age from the tyranny of physical perfection with a career best performance in Florence Foster Jenkins (2016). But Pitt lacks energy and enthusiasm.

There’s an ambassadors party where chocolates are definitely off the menu. Plus there’s plenty of period cars and planes to keep vintage vehicle enthusiasts happy. Plus there’s an ample supply of camels. Which is nice.

Allied skips between London and Casablanca without taking much humour, action, suspense or interest with it. Key moments are ramped up by environment to the point of parody. Eventually the whole exercise slowly sinks beneath the soggy sands of sentiment and leaves barely any trace of itself on your  memory.

Following the 1942 classic film, it’s a schoolboy error to set a Second World War romance in Casablanca. Even the best modern film struggles to compete with the magic of Bogart and Bergman at their imperious peak, and this is far from being the best film.

Don’t play this again, Sam.

@ChrisHunneysett

 

Pompeii

Director: Paul WS Anderson (2014)

There’s not an ounce of originality in this ridiculous Roman romp – but you can’t help being swept away on waves of lava-hot fun.

It shamelessly borrows scenes, images, fights and even jokes from Ridley Scott’s epic Gladiator despite not being fit to tie its sandals.

Pompeii is also poorly acted and badly written, with ramshackle dialogue and a plot that makes very little sense.

But Geordie director Anderson doesn’t waste time in getting to the main act – Mt Vesuvius blowing its top.

As choking-hot death rains down on Romans in an orgy of brilliant and gleeful destruction, I was grinning like a loon.

Plus it has Keifer Sutherland camping it up as a Roman Senator so resolutely evil that he has a English accent. (At least I think it’s supposed to be an English accent.)

The plot follows a Celtic – that is, British – child Milo who is captured after his family is butchered by Roman legionaries. lead by the evil Corvus (Sutherland).

Suddenly it’s 17 years later and he’s has grown up to become a feared gladiator known simply as ‘The Celt’ (Kit Harington) with the baddest rep, hardest abs and best hair.

Before you can say Maximus Decimus Meridius he is whisked off to Pompeii to fight in a computer-drawn city of unconvincing interior sets.

Milos falls in love with beautiful bland party-girl Cassia (Emily Browning). Her father Severus (Jared Harris) wants Corvus (now a Senator) to finance a new arena. But Corvus wants Cassia as part of the deal and plots to have Milo murdered.

Milos foils Corvus’s bid to kill him with the help of gladiator Atticus (Adewele Akinnouye-Agbaje). With the hero’s fate in the balance, the volcano erupts and everyone legs it for the docks to escape.

Except Milo, who must rescue Cassia, get revenge on Corvus and avoid being turned into ash with everyone else.