I have nothing but respect to much of the work done by Mr. Brad Pitt and Mr. Robert Zamekis, which could account to why I was so disappointed that they put their good names to a product such as Allied. Between the two of them, they have ample amount of talent and knowledge of film making, and yet for whatever reason, they chose to ignore basic cardinal rules of movie development. Being based on a true story, some leniency can be given for the taking of artistic freedom, but there is little excuse for forgetting that –
IT STARTS WITH THE SCRIPT Allied is dripping with drama, along with issues not too far from that of Mr. and Mrs. Smith: Who can you trust? How well do you know the person you share a bed and a life with? But while Mr. and Mrs. Smith could get away with concentrating on the action (based on the protagonists’ profession), Allied should have attacked the subject from the dramatic point of view, instead of ending as yet another banal and uninspiring action movie. It comes down to the script, where Allied can’t seem to decide if it wants to be a dramatic thriller/suspense or an action flick highlighting the protagonist’s determination in proving his wife’s innocence.
One ally the script could have used is fully developed subplots. True the story is based on real events, which makes subplots a little trickier, but, as with the inability to lock on one main genre (drama), with support of sub-genres (thriller/suspense), subplots are mentioned, but not followed on. Yes, the point of the sister living with her girlfriend is clear, but it does not serve to reflect or contrast the premise. Was the sister’s girlfriend also investigated and vetted like the protagonist’s wife? Was she suspected on any unauthorized activities because of her sexual preference? Was her position affected in any way due to it? One way to know a subplot serves no function is to take it out and see if the main storyline is hurt in any way. When the answer is no, as is the case with Allied, the script is in troubles.
CHARACTERS, CONFLICTS, AND (LACK OF) DIALOGUE CAN BE ALLIES TOO The story is so determent to present an action figure as the protagonist, it forgets the main issue is the internal drama of one’s belief in his secure life with his wife and baby being shattered to pieces. The drama of knowing that if the accusations are true he’d need to kill her himself, get lost in the action scenes portraying the protagonist attempts to uncover the truth himself. The desire to showcase a protagonist who will go to any length to prove his belief in his wife’s innocence is right and everyone else wrong, results in neglecting all other characters. No supporting cast, including the wife, has any depth to them, which is the result of a movie that shifts from the drama to the action/adventure genre.
Can one trust the woman he lays next to night after night; the one who bore his child, but who may also consorts with the same enemies responsible to so much death and destruction of your country? There is certainly no shortage of inner conflicts in this dramatic tale, especially when enhanced by the idea that the protagonist would need to kill his own wife himself should she be exposed as a traitor, can bring together both inner and external conflicts together. However, the script seems to insist on subduing most of the internal conflicts in lieu of the need to show the protagonist risking his life (and others) to get the information himself. There are some nice little twists like the blindness of one of the characters who could identify the wife, but on the other hand, there are conflicts that are thrown in, without any afterthought like the protagonist’s gained knowledge, that his selfish and irresponsible actions cost the life of an innocent young soldier.
Dialogue is a powerful tool in dramas, but lack of it could speak volumes. One scene showing the protagonist contemplating struggling his wife with his bare hands, would make a much bigger impact that him telling his sister about the suspicions against his wife, which the viewer was already aware of. And then, of course, much like Up in the Air, The Big Year and many other American movies, Allied must perform an overkill by adding an unnecessary piece of dialogue after the climactic moment and the resolution of the movie. Had it added pertinent knowledge the viewer was unable to infer from the preceding action and dialogue sequences, it would have been forgiven, but that is not the case here.
THE SILVER LINING Not all is lost though. There are places where both Mr. Pitt and Mr. Zamekis show they know that cinema is a visual medium, and that a picture is worth a thousand words. In one scene the protagonist is seen sitting in the kitchen as his wife comes down from their bedroom. By that point the protagonist is tired and spent, physically and emotionally. He knows deep inside his wife’s guilt, but still harbors a shred of hope of her innocence. He wants to trust her, but can’t until he makes her take one last test. And all that is done without words, but by appropriate clothing, make up, camera movement and facial expression.
It is easy to be a Monday Night quarterback, but making a movie is not like a game of football. Footage is viewed both instantly and during preview screenings, thus the problems with the movie should have jumped up immediately. It is most certain that both Mr. Pitt and Mr. Zamekis will go on to create meaningful and influential films in the years to come. One can only hope they will remember to starts with a good script, which they should entrust with people who would tell them the weaknesses of a story before the first day of shooting.
Max Vatan: I’ve heard a lot about you around the circuit. Marianne Beauséjour: I’ve heard a lot about you. Keep going straight, I’ll tell you when to turn. Max Vatan: You were in Dieppe for a while? Marianne Beauséjour: A husband would offer his wife a cigarette before lighting his own.
Max Vatan: Do they trust you? Marianne Beauséjour: Two months ago, I got promoted to the Embassy Liaison Department. I deal with the German legation every day. Max Vatan: But do they trust you? Marianne Beauséjour: How did it look? Max Vatan: They seemed to like you. Marianne Beauséjour: And I like them. I keep the emotions real, that’s why it works.
Marianne Beauséjour: Can you stand 10 days in this tiny little place, Le Québécois? It’s not so bad. Water’s hot, sometimes. Max Vatan: I’ll take the couch. Marianne Beauséjour: Actually, you’ll sleep on the roof. It’s cooler. And in Casablanca, the roof is where husbands go after they’ve made love to their wives.
[Marianne joins Max on the roof of their apartment] Marianne Beauséjour: The neighbors will find it curious if I don’t come to visit you on your first night. I’ve told Madame Torgenot and Madame Petit all about you. They’ll be very excited. They’ll guess that the sex is already over. Max Vatan: And it was great, by the way. Marianne Beauséjour: Then, you went to the roof. I missed you because I’ve been sleeping alone so many months. So I came up to tell you I love you. Max Vatan: You’re very thorough. Marianne Beauséjour: That’s why I’m still alive. Now we should talk and laugh. Max Vatan: We’re married, why would we laugh? [Marianne laughs out loud] Marianne Beauséjour: Kiss me. [Max kisses her on the forehead] Marianne Beauséjour: Now talk. Tell me what you’ll do after the war. Max Vatan: I don’t know what I’ll do after the war.
Marianne Beauséjour: Look. The lovely Madame Petit in apartment seven, she’s married to a German tank captain, and she’s watching us. So we should talk and laugh. Max Vatan: Okay. After the war, I’m buying a ranch with horses. Marianne Beauséjour: A ranch! You mean, like in the movies? Cowboys? Bang, bang? Max Vatan: Yeah. Marianne Beauséjour: Are you just saying this to say something, or is it real? Max Vatan: It’s real. It’s a ranch on a prairie outside a place called Medicine Hat. Marianne Beauséjour: Now I know you’re joking. You think you’ll ever get there? [Max looks at her as if to say he doesn’t know] Marianne Beauséjour: Well, I guess that’s not the point of Medicine Hat, huh? Max Vatan: No. Marianne Beauséjour: Okay. That wasn’t so hard, was it? Now this is the part where I tell you I love you and leave you to count the stars, or whatever it is men do on their rooftops. Je t’aime. Max Vatan: Je t’aime aussi. Marianne Beauséjour: Now kiss me again. [Max leans and kisses her]
Max Vatan: You remember Guy? You got him out of Dieppe in ’41. Marianne Beauséjour: Okay. What did he say about me? Max Vatan: He said you were beautiful, and good. Marianne Beauséjour: Being good at this kind of work is not very beautiful.
[Marianne unbuttons her blouse] Max Vatan: What are you doing? Marianne Beauséjour: Testing you the way you tested me. I know you are armed with a weapon, Mr. Vatan. I’m just checking your safety catch is engaged. There. We had our first fight. Now we’re okay again, yes? Max Vatan: Marianne, we both know people who’ve fucked each other. Then they fucked up, and now they’re fucking dead. Marianne Beauséjour: Wow, that’s a lot of fucks. Max Vatan: Fasten your goddamn buttons. [Marianne buttons up her blouse] Marianne Beauséjour: Actually, Max, the mistake people make in these situations isn’t fucking. It’s feeling.
[as they sit in the sand in the desert] Marianne Beauséjour: What are our odds? Max Vatan: Of surviving? 60-40, against. Both of us, I don’t know.
Marianne Beauséjour: So, tell me about Medicine Hat. Max Vatan: Pretty green. Rolling hills. Clear water. Just a place I go when things get dark. You? Do you have a place? Marianne Beauséjour: When the war is over, it won’t matter where I am. We should be going. [they both get up and get into the car as a sandstorm approaches; Marianne touches Max’s hand as he goes to start the car] Marianne Beauséjour: If we’re dead tomorrow, no one would know. [Max turns off the engine, then he leans in and kisses her, as the sandstorm surrounds the car they make love]
Marianne Beauséjour: We’re alive, Max. We’re both alive. Max Vatan: Come with me to London. Come with me to London and be my wife.
Max Vatan: I thought you said to meet you in the mess. George Kavanagh: I lied. It isn’t me you’re here to see. Oh, do you… [he offers him cigarettes] Max Vatan: No. George Kavanagh: No, V Section want to speak to you. Max Vatan: Well, why didn’t they call me? George Kavanagh: Because V Section, they never say what they mean and they never mean what they say, and they never say anything on the phone. I told you they’d come for you eventually, didn’t I, Max? Such a clever boy. Well, I suppose I ought to congratulate you on your promotion. Max Vatan: Since you seem to know so much, what is the position? George Kavanagh: It goes way, way above my level of security, old man. I’m just the messenger boy.
Frank Heslop: Max, I’m afraid this really isn’t what you think it is. And, well, there’s no easy way to say what we’re about to say. S.O.E. Official: We believe your wife is a German spy. [Max chuckles] Max Vatan: Okay, wait. Wait. Seriously, Frank, who is this? S.O.E. Official: I’m a rat catcher I also outrank you, so you can call me “sir.” Frank Heslop: You have to listen to him, Max. He outranks both of us. S.O.E. Official: Over the past seven days, V Section has intercepted coded messages being sent from London to Berlin on a WT transceiver. We haven’t traced the signal to an address yet, but it’s coming from the Highgate region of North London, and the information concerns the activities of SOE circuits in France. In one transcript, the agent refers to his source as Fräulein, so it’s a woman. Max Vatan: Okay, okay. Frank, can we speak alone for a moment? S.O.E. Official: Wing Commander Vatan, do you ever speak to your wife about your work? Max Vatan: Okay. Sir, before this thing gets out of hand, may I speak? Hm, may I speak? S.O.E. Official: Yes. Max Vatan: Yes? My wife is Marianne Beauséjour. Marianne Beauséjour ran the most effective resistance circuit in Paris until V Section fucked it up for her in ’41. We met in Casablanca, where together we assassinated the German Ambassador. She’s the mother of my child. She gave birth to my child, for Christ sake.
S.O.E. Official: This is a translated transcript of an interrogation of a German Abwehr officer captured in Tobruk. Amongst many other things, he claims that Marianne Beauséjour was arrested and executed in May 1941 when the rest of her circuit was captured in Paris. Marianne Beauséjour’s identity was then given to a German agent of similar build and coloring. She was flown to Casablanca, where no one knew the real Marianne. And it was subsequently discovered that the German Ambassador, who you assassinated in Casablanca, was a dissident. Hitler wanted him killed. Max Vatan: This is insane. S.O.E. Official: All the information in the intercepted communications had crossed your desk. Max Vatan: Yes, everything crosses my fucking desk. Frank Heslop: Max, this is now an operational mission. If Marianne is indeed a German spy… Max Vatan: My wife is not a spy! Frank Heslop: If she is, we need to keep her in place for seventy-two hours so that we can identify her handler and clean out the rest of her circuit. [Max gets up and kicks his chair back in anger] Max Vatan: No.
S.O.E. Official: Now we’ve got that out of the way, perhaps we could discuss the operational details of the next seventy-two hours? So, this is gonna be a standard “blue-dye” procedure, blue dye being… Max Vatan: I know what a blue-dye is. S.O.E. Official: Tonight, you will receive a telephone call at exactly 23:07. Repeat the time, Wing Commander. Max Vatan: 23:07, sir. S.O.E. Official: You will take the call and you will write down a message somewhere your wife can read it. It’ll be false information, only you will have it. But it’ll appear to be of a high grade, so she will have to pass it on quickly. By midday on Monday, our agents will have decoded enemy traffic from the weekend. So if the false information is among the batches sent from London, we shall know for sure. Frank Heslop: If you are right, Max, the information won’t appear on the transcripts, and all this will be forgotten. S.O.E. Official: But if it is proven that your wife is a spy, routine procedures in cases of intimate betrayal will apply. You will execute her with your own hand, and if we discover that you are an accomplice in any way, you will be hanged for high treason. Wing Commander Vatan, do you understand? [Max just look at him] S.O.E. Official: He needs to confirm that he understands routine procedures in… Frank Heslop: He understands the procedure, damn it. S.O.E. Official: Good. Frank Heslop: Max, it is vital you do nothing differently. You are not to investigate or take matters into your own hands, do you understand? Max Vatan: Sir, I, uh, I apologize for behaving unprofessionally just then. But I know for a fact you’ll be proven wrong. S.O.E. Official: Now, Wing Commander, you will go home and carry on as if nothing’s happened. You’re dismissed.
[Max returns home after being told that Marianne is a German spy] Marianne Beauséjour: You were ages. Max Vatan: You know how it is. Once you get in, you can’t get out. A young pilot needed a pep talk. Then I got dragged into a briefing. Marianne Beauséjour: Hey, what happened to my kiss? [Max leans in and kisses her]
[as they are in bed] Marianne Beauséjour: Don’t think I’m going to let you sleep, Mr. Vatan. [Marianne kisses Max and he starts to make love to her]
[as Hunter is going into action] Max Vatan: Who are you thinking about? Captain Adam Hunter: My mother. Max Vatan: Don’t. Think about your father. He’s proud of you. Captain Adam Hunter: Yes, sir.
Marianne Beauséjour: A husband would offer his wife a cigarette before lighting his own. [she rolls up Max’s sleeve] Marianne Beauséjour: You did give blood! Good. I thought perhaps you were out with your mistress. It would explain why you were different with me last night. Max Vatan: Different? Marianne Beauséjour: In bed. It felt different. [Max shakes his head] Marianne Beauséjour: Good.
Frank Heslop: You willfully and blatantly disobeyed orders. First you visit Guy Sangster and burst half his bloody stitches, then… Max Vatan: Frank, if it was your wife, would you trust V Section? Frank Heslop: Adam Hunter’s Lysander was shot to pieces three hours ago. On the ground, with him in it! He’s dead! Because he stayed too long waiting for an answer to a question from a drunk. Max Vatan: Frank, tell me. Is this a game? Frank Heslop: A game? Max Vatan: A game. A test.
[last lines; Marianne reads the letter that she had earlier written in anticipation the her real identity would be found out] Marianne Beauséjour: My dearest, darling Anna. I’m writing this on a Sunday night in London. If you’re reading this, then you barely knew me and may have no memory of who I am. I am your mother. You were born in an air raid in the middle of a war to two people who loved each other. Our year together in the house in Hampstead has been the happiest time of my life. Today you took your first steps. I am so grateful that I saw you walk for the first time with your father by my side. Max, my love, you are my world. I hope you will be able to forgive me, and I hope you make it to Medicine Hat. I have a picture of it in my mind, and I pray Anna’s eyes will see it. My beautiful daughter, I love you with all my heart. I hope you will live your life in peace. I rest knowing your father will take good care of you. I remain your loving mother, Marianne Vatan.