Saturday, 26 November 2016
Starring Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard and Jared Harris. Written by Steven Knight. Directed by Robert Zemeckis. Budget $85 million. Running time 124 minutes. Cert 15.
Apparently when this script was circulated around Hollywood the film's working title was: Is She or Isn't She?
Set in WWII, Canadian super spy, Brad Pitt aka Max Vatan (cos he's a spy and spies need cool spy names), parachutes into the middle of the desert, walks out dressed like Lawrence of Arabia but in awesome sunglasses so he's far cooler. Then, in the middle of literally nowhere, he hops into a passing cab and arrives outside a glamorous nightclub in Casablanca where he exits in a white snazzy suit before walking in and snogging Marion Cotillard aka Marianne Beausejour (who's posing as his wife), then in the morning he kills a German SS officer with a lump of bread. Because you know, he's a super spy.
Then it's a slow build as these two staggering attractive spies pretend to be married, attend parties and succeed in gatecrashing the biggest social event of the year, an one-off gig by the German Ambassador. This they achieve by blagging a couple of invitations off an SS Nazi officer. Then it's a big shoot out and explosion before Max Vatan (super spy), whose face throughout this film never seems to move an inch, except when he's raising a single eyebrow, ala Roger Moore, asks Marianne to come back to England with him to be his wife. Then the film proper opens on a street scene in London as Brad, now in his RAF uniform walks into the home of Universal Exports and we finally get it. Rob Zem has only gone and remade On Her Majesty's Secret Service but set in WWII and without a bald bloke with a cat fetish. If only Robbie had done the bit where we, the audience, look down the barrel of a gun as Brad walks onto the screen dressed in a tux before spinning and shooting his gun. Because this feels as if we've just sat through the longest 'pre-credit' Bond sequence in history.
A montage and a caption that reads: 'One Year Later' quickly shunts things along and we find James and Tracy now raising Bond-edette in Hampstead and it's happy families. Or is it...
No, of course not. Because that wouldn't make a very exciting story would it? Two ex-spies now married, with a kid, trying to readjust to civie life in WWII London while an an army of irate German spies hunt them down for revenge. Actually that would make a pretty good movie.
Instead poor Max Vatan, super spy, is told his wife of a year isn't who she says she is - a French super spy with awesome skills but more than likely a German super spy with equally awesome skills pretending to be a French Super spy with awesome skills. Max is told he has 72 hours to prove his wife's innocence or to shot her in the face to prove his innocence. And after that, he's off to find out the truth.
To say anymore would probably ruin this film.
This is a good looking, well art-directed movie, the attention to detail is lovely (check out the paint work on the banisters), the use of CGI is great, the chemistry between Brad and Cotillard is okay, it's not as electric as Brad and Angelina was in Mr. And Mrs. Smith but it's okay and Jarred Harris is terrific, if only there was more of him. The first part of the film, the pre credit sequence in Casablanca is entertaining, it's certainly the most exciting but it's also frustrating, it all feels so surreal, other-worldly, not helped by the distinct lack of other people populating the world, it all feels strangely vacant. Also, the whole Casablanca sequence races at speed leaving some minor plot holes in its wake. Similarly, when the action moves to good old Blighty, there are scenes that sit uncomfortably and stretch credulity and also leave holes. Brad's character has a sister who is also in the spy biz who has an opening gay relationship which seems unrealistic given the era. Likewise the surprising sex and drug party that kicks off at the super spies' house feels strangely out of place too. And once again everywhere seems bizarrely empty, except for the hill top picnic scene, which in complete contrast seems to be hosting an outside party for the whole population of the London.
At its core is the question 'is she or isn't she' but we're just not given enough information to make our own mind up, sure there's one telegraphed nod, when someone is clearly not who they say they are, but apart from that the film just followed the emotionless Brad as he stumbles around looking for evidence to prove his wife's innocence or otherwise. Perhaps if more time had been spent on Brad's investigation we would feel more involved, but there just isn't time and so we don't. So the whole thing poots along at a vigorous pace until the ending when the truth is finally revealed.
This isn't a terrible film, however it's oddly un-engrossing and there's definitely a sense that something is missing, although what that is, isn't easy to say. On one hand it's very old fashioned, it feels like a British film for the 1940s, but then on the other hand it's trying too hard to be relevant for the 21st century. It throws red herrings at you that might not be red, nor even herrings and some plots points are heavily sign posted then discarded. Still, this wasn't a wasted evening. It most certainly has its moments and Brad is still an actor you can't help but watch, it's just overall it's just not that engaging.