Tag: Brad Pitt

Allied

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Hrmph … Allied.  Its trailer smacked of a run-of-the-mill spy thriller. A Hollywood vehicle to transport its stars toward a seasonal pay check by means of a reliable director at the helm.  I’ve seen the likes of it before so I really wasn’t keen to see this film … but I’m glad I did.

Paramount’s formulaic approach was certainly never going to set the world alight, but Allied surprised me by its entertainment value alone. Directed by the very safe Robert Zemeckis (Castaway), with a cast of two stars that will certainly get bums on seats … against my better judgement, it appears that the studio got the balance just right.

Set during the Second World War, Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) is a Canadian intelligence officer. During a deadly mission behind enemy lines in Morocco he encounters his accomplice, a female French Resistance fighter named Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard). Their faux marriage (for the benefit of the mission) soon becomes a reality after they reunite in London later in the war.  However, when doubt is cast over Marianne’s loyalty to the Allied cause it prompts Max to question his own loyalties.

Sounds fairly dull, I know, but Steven Knight (Eastern Promises) has penned a script that is so watertight, Zemeckis could have used it for Tom Hank’s raft in Castaway. Yes, it’s a little on-the-nose in parts, but the provocative glamour reaches beyond its stars’ pulling-power and steals the show. Of course there are the film’s stars. Brad Pitt is, well, Brad Pitt – It’s difficult to be anything else when you are that famous and handsome (that man still has great hair). And Cotillard injects a ripe sense of intrigue and mystery to proceedings. But central to the film’s impetus is its desire to hearken back to the classic Hollywood studio films of yesteryear, where star power and glamour were reasons enough to see a film. Make no mistake, Allied is one of these films. It’s certainly not without its faults, and there are moments of over pronounced referential eye-winking at war-time classics such as Casablanca, but despite this Allied set me on a journey that arrested my critical faculties and had me believing the unbelievable; sacrificing realism and logic for the sake of enjoyment. Yes, it is impossibly glamorous and the sex scenes among the swirling sand-storms of Morocco felt a little forced, but I didn’t care. Hrmph … I wanted to dislike it, but it was just too much fun.

Star rating: 4 out of 5

See the published review here

Some holiday films … Amour, Killing Them Softly, Shame, Oblivion, Un Prophete, etc.

Back from holiday, back to work, back to winter … grrr and brrr. On a more positive note, I managed to catch up on seven fantastic films while I was away.

Amour is a Michael Haneke masterpiece. I was thoroughly taken with this film. Haneke’s lack of camera movement is so refreshing these days. The camera sits still and observes the characters rather than becoming one itself. The result is minimum distraction and total submersion into Amour‘s intoxicating performances by Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintigent, Amour is a chamber piece of filmic perfection, so well measured with no rough edges … well deserving of its Palme d’Or.  My rating and trailer here.

Amour

Jean-Louis Trintigent and Isabelle Huppert in Amour

To Rome with Love is the prolific Woody Allen’s latest iconic city tribute. I can’t but help love Allen’s work. As with many of his films, and this film is no different, Allen returns to the safe romantic comedy genre. To Rome with Love is your usual Woody Allen fare, laced this with enough, humour, clever insights, and fourth wall breaking to keep the astute viewer on their toes whilst still indulging in lazy guilty pleasures. A comfortable transition from Midnight in Paris and a very enjoyable film. My rating and trailer here

To Rome with Love

Lynn Swanson and Woody Allen in To Rome With Love

Oblivion. Yes it’s Tom Cruise folks … plenty of Tom Cruise. He fills the screen in a way that only Tom Cruise can, snuffing out any room for other performances. That said, I found his performance to be in keeping with the films requirements. Actually, Oblivion is quite an enjoyable film and would have been more so had it not been the total rip off, and Hollywood bastardisation of Duncan Jones’ superb Moon. Ignore that and you have a solid sci-fi film that is enjoyable but forgotten in a years time. My rating and trailer here

Tom Cruise in Oblivion

Tom Cruise in Oblivion

Shame. Wonderfully written, Steve McQueen’s follow up from his excellent Hunger is another superb outing. Fassbender and Mulligan are nothing short of brilliant. Fassbender plays Brandon, who is addicted to meaningless sex and struggles when circumstance force him to connect both emotionally and sexually. The film is delicately balanced by Sissy, his sister, played by Mulligan who longs for emotional connection and is given to suicidal tendencies. McQueen crafts his characters slowly and clinically, working in a typically cold palette. Shame is excellent and I can’t wait for McQueen next film Twelve Years a Slave. My rating and trailer here

Steve McQueen (right) directs James Badge Dale and Carey Mulligan in Shame

Steve McQueen (right) directs James Badge Dale and Carey Mulligan in Shame

Richard III. A tour de force of of British acting royalty are on offer here … oh and Annette Bening, and Robert Downey Jr. In the vein of Lurman’s Romeo and Juliet, Richard III is a modernisation of the classic Shakespeare play. McKellen does an excellent job at adapting the screenplay and playing the lead. However, this film does seem to show its eighteen years in age and its spark of ingenuity has somewhat lost something over time. Worth watching for the performances alone. My rating and trailer here

Ian McKellen in Richard III

Ian McKellen in Richard III

Un prophete. Another Palme d’Or winner. Jacques Audiard’s gives an excellent account of a rags to riches story in the gang lands of prison whilst delicately tip toeing through racial barriers. Visually stunning and a captivating narrative make this an intoxicating watch. My rating and trailer here

Niels Arestrup and Tahar Rahim in Un prophete

Niels Arestrup and Tahar Rahim in Un prophete

Killing Them Softly. New Zealand’s own Andrew Dominik directs this crime drama that tells the story of Jackie (Brad Pitt), a hit man, who has to restore order to the local criminal economy. Hits are made and money exchanges hands, all the while against the backdrop of the Obama-Cain presidential election. Economy versus community is the subtext explored here, and the fact that this plays out in a gang land setting makes the narrative all the more interesting to watch. Dominik’s knows how to shoot a gangster film with difference (Chopper, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford). He certainly knows how to pick his cinematographers, this time choosing to work with Greig Fraser (Bright Star) who masterfully weaves some stunning camera work that is on occasion surplus to requirements but nonetheless always provocative. Despite some patchy acting, I found Killing Them Softly an interesting take on its subtext. My rating and trailer here

Brad Pitt and Scoot McNairy in Killing Them Softly

Brad Pitt and Scoot McNairy in Killing Them Softly

Top ten memorable scenes: #6 The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

This is a beautiful film by New Zealand born director Andrew Dominik. A long slow burn that ratchets the tension up to this final scene. It troubles me to show this as a standalone as it really should be seen within the context of the entire film to be fully appreciated. That said, this scene still stands up as an amazing piece of cinema in its own right. Acting chops are really shown by the superb cast (Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, and Sam Rockwell). Dominik cleverly orchestrates the suspicion and relational manoevering of Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) and Jesse James (Brad Pitt) culminating in four minutes of mastery shot by Roger Deakins. Roger would have to be my favourite D.O.P. and this scene shows why … it is nothing short of amazing. Unfortunately the YouTube clip below doesn’t capture the scene in its entirety but its the best I could muster up.