This wartime thriller cum love story is a good old fashioned tale filmed with contemporary production values from a taut script from British writer Steven Knight (“Peaky Blinders” and “Locke”) and briskly directed by American veteran Zemeckis.
In 1942 at the height of World War II Canadian airman Max Vatan (Pitt) is parachuted into German occupied Casablanca. His instructions are to link up with French resistance worker Marianne Beauséjour (Cotillard), who will be posing as his wife. Their mission is to assassinate the German ambassador toMorocco. Things become complicated however when the couple fall in love for real. Back in England against the advice of his commanding officer (Harris) Max manages to get permission to bring Marianne to England, where they are married and Marianne gives birth to their child at the height of the blitz with bombs dropping all around. They settle into a nice little house in Hampstead but then Max is summoned by the head of a top secret government department, where it’s chief, played with spooky charisma by Simon McBurney, informs him that they suspect Marianne is a German spy. He is instructed to set her a test and not to otherwise take any action. Naturally he takes no notice whatsoever of the second part of that order but he has just two days in which to prove that his wife is innocent.
This is a strong story well and convincingly acted and directed and with an authentic feel for the period. Cottillard looks stunningly beautiful and her character stays with us movingly in the latter part of the film, when Max’s fight to prove her innocence takes over the story. Pitt is charismatically masculine as Max and though now in his early fifties, can still convince as a man somewhat younger, presumably with a little help from make up or perhaps something more drastic – there’s something a bit Peter Pan-ish about his eternally youthful good looks. As a couple they generate the appropriate chemistry and the film also gets some fun out of Max’s Canadian accented spoken French.
In the last part of the film some of Max’s actions seem a little reckless, like hijacking British a plane and leaving it parked in Nazi occupied northern France, while he pursues his mission to save his wife, but the ruthlessness the character shows at this point has already been established in the early Casablanca scenes, when he coldly assassinates a German office who might recognise him. And in the last part of the story we are now so caught up in the action that the film can easily get away with a twist or two too far.
Review by Carol Allen