US, 2016, 124 minutes, Colour.
Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris, August Diehl, Simon Mc Burney, Matthew Goode, Anton Lesser.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis.
The whole world knew what was happening in Morocco in 1942, the German occupation, the French expatriates, the espionage and what was happening at Rick’s in Casablanca – with the Oscar-winning film of 1943, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman and all the sundry and shady characters in that film.
Over 70 years later, here we are again, in a big budget, one might say old-fashioned, drama and melodrama, colourful, and with two popular stars, Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. However, Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henried got on the plane at the end of Casablanca and went on to new adventures which the audience had to imagine. After the episode in Allied, the action transfers to London, London at the time of the blitz, quite vividly re-created.
We get into the mood of things with Max, Brad Pitt, parachuting into the desert, picked up, driven to the city, cheerfully meeting up with his wife, Marianne, Marion Cotillard dissembling with great aplomb, creating the cover for a husband-and-wife team who are there for an assassination attempt – rather spectacularly carried out at a political social, the fake husband-and-wife in tuxedo and evening gown, machine guns blazing.
So, introductions, action, touches of romance – and Max, the Canadian Wing Commander, back to London for a desk job but also applying for Marianne to come to London, her security credentials checked, so that he can marry her.
Touches of the blitz, Max visit the office under the supervision of Jared Harris but a happy home life, and the birth of a daughter.
Then comes more melodrama, accusations that Maryanne is actually a German spy, that Max is to investigate her, set a trap for her and, if she is guilty, execute her. So, a lot of tension building up in the house, Maryanne puzzled, and makes doing a whole lot of brooding – and taking the suspicions into his own hands, even to commandeering a plane, flying to the French coast, collaborating with the Resistance to interrogate one of their members and coming under fire from the Germans.
While this is old-fashioned romantic style film on the grand scale, the outcome is not exactly what might be predicted, though many audiences would have been happy with a predictable ending – critics not!
Marion Cotillard is a strong and sympathetic screen presence. Brad Pitt is romantic but rather stiff upper lip. Direction is by Roberts Zemeckis who has had an interesting career with a range of films from Who Framed Roger Rabbit to his Oscar for Forrest Gump.
1. A World War II story? Popular story, style? Variation on Casablanca themes?
2. The strong cast, the director?
3. Costumes, decor, re-creation of the period, the British locations, the French resistance locations, London offices, espionage? The musical score?
4. Morocco, the desert, Casablanca, the city, homes, German occupation, parties?
5. Espionage, World War II, the mission to assassinate in Morocco? Spies, marriage? The accusations, presumption of guilt, the deadly situation? The credibility of the plot?
6. Max, parachuting into Morocco, the desert, the car, his cover, meeting Marianne, her aplomb, the cover, going to the house, on the roof, pretending to be husband-and-wife, the bond between them, the sexual encounter? The socials, meeting the Germans, going to the official, getting the invitation to the party? The plan, the timing, the weapons under the table, socialising, the ambassador arriving, the shooting, the number of deaths, the escape, success of the mission?
7. The transition to London, the atmosphere of London during the war, the Blitz? Frank and his command, Max as the Canadian Wing Commander, the permit for Marianne to come to England, the security check, her identity? Her arrival, the wedding, the house, happiness, the work, her pregnancy, giving birth? The social life, friendships?
8. Max and his work, away from home? The planning of the party, the neighbours? Putting the little girl in care, the woman looking after her? The jeweller and his offers?
9. Max being summoned, the official interrogation, the harsh comments, the issue of Marianne as a spy, her identity? The plan with the message, the tension for the phone call, Max leaving the note, the deadline? Frank emphasising the seriousness? The effect on Max?
10. Max at home, Marianne and the puzzle, the message, the party?
11. His visit to the friend in hospital, the discovery that he was blind and could not identify Marianne?
12. The suggestion of the resistance man in France, Max tearing the photo, giving it to the pilot, the pilot, his apprehensions, his death? The dim view of Frank and the authorities?
13. Max, during the plane, going to France, dropping the weapons, the resistance personnel, going to the prison, the man drunk, the guard and his fear, the prisoner identifying Marianne, but mentioning the piano and her singing La Marseillaise, the guard, betrayal, the attack, the resistance and the shooting?
14. Max and Marianne, talking, his urging her to play the piano? Confessing the truth, the Germans and their hold over her, the threat to their daughter? Her passing on the messages?
15. Max going to the woman who cared for the baby, her being an agent, shooting her? The jeweller and his death?
16. The plan for the escape, going to the airport, in the car, Marianne leaving the baby? Frank and the officials arriving? Marianne, contemplation, killing herself, the note that she left? Frank saying in the report that Max had executed his traitor wife?
17. Max and his talk about peace, Medicine Hat, the epilogue with the images of Max and his daughter?