Tucked up and keeping warm on the sofa today, I thought I might as well watch something I had recorded from a TV film channel. Starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, directed by Robert Zemeckis, I thought it might be worth watching. After all, it was set during WW2, and was about secret agents operating on dangerous missions behind enemy lines. When you are feeling poorly, you don’t really need an intellectual challenge, let’s face it.
Pitt plays Canadian pilot, Max. Being Canadian is important, as it means he can speak French. He is tasked by Special Operations to be parachuted into Casablanca, where he is to connect with the esteemed French female agent, Marianne. Together, they will pose as man and wife, whilst planning and executing a dangerous assassination. Don’t even bother to ask yourself for one second if they will have sex, and fall in love. You know they will. And the same applies to the all but impossible mission. Will they succeed? Of course they will. But none of that was a spoiler, as it all happens almost as soon as the film starts.
Max begs Marianne to follow him to London, and be his wife. True love indeed. And they manage to escape of course, despite those impossible odds, and being in a Vichy French country, occupied by lots of very caricature Nazis.
The film then starts doing something it does quite a lot. To cover up the huge holes in the plot, it uses captions. ‘Three Weeks Later’. Then ‘One Year Later’, and so on. Things like that are guaranteed to get my critical goat, and that goat was well and truly got.
Married, and with a darling baby daughter, they settle into an idyllic life in the desirable London suburb of Hampstead. Cue picnics on the Heath, drinks in the pub with friends, and the appearance of Max’s lesbian sister and her girlfriend. The latter inclusion is particularly pointless, as it only serves to be able to show us two women kissing affectionately for no reason whatsoever. Max has a desk job with the Air Force, and Marianne is the dutiful, and occasionally sexy, wife and mother.
Then one day, Max is summoned into headquarters, where he is interviewed by a very nasty man.
Oh, there’s a twist. Exactly halfway through the film, the theme changes into an ‘Is it or isn’t it?’ twisty-double-twist scenario. That could have been really good, if the twist hadn’t been quite so obvious. The next half of the film finds Max at odds with his superiors, and the dreamy life in Hampstead turned upside down. This was a great chance for the film to suddenly become interesting. There could have been some real tension, building to a ‘Wow!’ climax.
Sadly, they decided not to bother.
In a nutshell, Brad plays Brad. Marion’s talents are totally wasted, and everyone else plays like they are in an Amateur Dramatics Society in some remote English village. WW2 looks and feels like a ‘set’, and stereotypes abound. From strutting Germans, to cowardly or drunk Frenchmen, all the way through to the rebellious colonial Canadian, and the stiff-upper-lip pompous British officers he clashes with.
Oh dear. And it cost $113,000,000 to make too.
They could have treated one million people to a decent meal instead.
Think you might like it? here’s a trailer.