Archive for the ‘Robert Zemeckis’ Category

Nazi Neo-Noir

Allied

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Cast: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris, August Diehl, Lizzy Caplan, Marion Bailey, Matthew Goode, Simon McBurney, Josh Dylan

Flight director Robert Zemeckis’s hopes to rekindle the World War II genre with the Nazi thriller Allied pairing Oscar nominee Brad Pitt (Twelve Monkeys, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and Oscar winner Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose) are severely dashed.

Whilst Cotillard holds her own as femme fatale Marianne Beausejour speaking French in the stunning Moroccan opening sequence, it is Brad Pitt who looks forlorn as the flaky Canadian spy Max Vatan as he parachutes into the Sahara desert to enter an intriguing plot in Casablanca to assassinate the Nazi German ambassador to the Vichy occupied French Morocco.

The most engaging sequences in Allied is the first act, all set in exotic Morocco, but if the film is aiming to recapture the allure of Anthony Minghella’s Oscar winning masterpiece The English Patient, it falls short of the mark. Despite a competent script by Steven Knight although not his best work (Eastern Promises, Locke), Allied fails to deliver as a riveting war drama mainly due to the surprising lack of screen chemistry between Pitt and Cotillard.

Unlike in director David Ayer’s blood-soaked Fury, Brad Pitt wasn’t on his best acting form, pre-empting the drama of the Brangelina breakup which overshadowed the post-production publicity of Allied to such an extent that Marion Cotillard had to issue a press statement denying that she was the cause of the split between Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

Publicity aside, the second half of Allied set in rain-drenched London during the Blitz is far more dreary than its spectacular opening sequence despite a strong group of British supporting actors including Jared Harris (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows), Matthew Goode (Brideshead Revisited, Stoker), Marion Bailey (Mr Turner) and Simon McBurney (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, The Last King of Scotland).

Audiences should look out for two superb cameos by German actor August Diehl as the Nazi commander Hobar who incidentally also acted with Pitt in Tarantino’s revisionist war drama Inglourious Basterds and Lizzy Caplan (The Interview) as Max’s bohemian sister Bridget.

As Max Vatan and the mysterious Marianne Beausejour marry and set up home in Hampstead during the war, there are rumours circulating that Beausejour is a double agent, secretly working for the Nazi’s and that the entire Casablanca affair was a ruse to get Vatan to trust her. As Marianne states in the opening scenes, “I keep my emotions real. That’s why it works” which beguiles Max into falling in love with the sophisticated yet steely eyed Frenchwoman.

Whilst Allied is an engaging film in the first half, with stylish 1940’s costume to match, the second half fails to keep the audience interested and develops into a slightly soppy second half as the truth emerges.

Allied is an average war drama from a screenwriter that could have delivered far better and from two stars that required a more dynamic plot to compensate for their dismal lack of onscreen chemistry.

Tightrope between the Twin Towers

The Walk

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Director: Robert Zemeckis

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Charlotte le Bon, Ben Kingsley, Clement Sibony, Cesar Domboy, James Bade Dale

Joseph Gordon-Levitt attempts a dubious French accent as Philippe Petit a High Wire Artist who is hell bent on walking across a tightrope between the newly constructed Twin Towers in New York City.

Director of Castaway and Flight, Robert Zemeckis’s film The Walk is both captivating and thrilling as he takes audiences on a journey of Philippe and his outstanding feat of walking a tightrope between the Twin Towers just as they are being completed back in 1974. What is more fascinating is that Zemeckis uses The Walk as a cinematic memorial to the infamous towers which came crashing down in the terrorist attacks in September 2001, without making reference to their eventual downfall twenty seven years later.

Whilst The Walk is set in Paris and New York, Zemeckis does not fall into the trap of ending the film with a line about the devastation of the World Trade Center Towers, but rather uses the film to pay tribute to the fantastic engineering feat of these twin towers during the 1970’s and the inspiration they gave to the crazy, obsessive French man Petit, exuberantly played by Gordon-Levitt who, with the help of a motley crue of accomplices pulls off the illegal stunt of crossing between the iconic skyscrapers one morning in May 1974, despite a multitude of setbacks.

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Unimaginatively titled, The Walk is not a perfect film and the only criticism is that of Petit’s character narrating his story directly to the cinema audience, but the film nevertheless remains light as a crazy and nostalgic look at one man’s determination to follow his dreams, knowing that if he achieves this feat he would become infamous and garner considerable media attention.

Thankfully the rest of the cast are French including Charlotte le Bon as Petit’s patient girlfriend Annie and Clement Sibony, both last seen in the charming film The Hundred Foot Journey as Jean-Louis, Philippe’s photographer friend who is given the task of capturing all of Petit’s tightrope antics including an earlier performance of walking between the towers of the Notre Dame in Paris.

Gordon-Levitt, whose slim build and natural onscreen energy is perfectly cast as the ambitious Philippe Petit and Oscar winner Ben Kingsley (Life, Gandhi, Sexy Beast) is cast as the Czech highwire artist Papa Rudy who Petit befriends at the Circus to assist him with some much needed acrobatic training.

For all its daring bravado and not to mention his obvious lack of a fear of heights, Petit’s triumph is of making the performance of being a high wire artist truly spectacular. The Walk is a fun-filled captivating story about one man’s ambition to perform the impossible act, caught at a specific moment in history when skyscrapers were still a novelty on any city’s skyline.

 

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