By Alistair Harkness
In this Second World War nostalgia fest, Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard find themselves at the centre of not just one but two of the most risible scenes of the year.
The first occurs shortly after this espionage-tinged romantic drama attempts to align itself with Casablanca by setting the action in the French Moroccan port and kitting Pitt out in a Bogart tux. It’s 1942 and Pitt’s airman Max Vatan has just been parachuted in to pose as the husband of Cotillard’s Marianne Beauséjour, a French Resistance operative who’s been assigned to help him assassinate the German ambassador.
Before they get down to business, however, the high-stakes nature of the mission overcomes them and they get down to business themselves in a car while a sandstorm rages outside. Director Robert Zemeckis indulges his own passion for screamingly obvious symbolism here, spinning his camera around their bodies to mimic the swirling sands engulfing their car just as their emotions are engulfing their lives. It’s hilariously tacky and Zemeckis reinforces his melodramatic approach with the film’s second heroically awful scene, set nine months later.
This time we’re in London in the middle of the Blitz and the child conceived in that sirocco-enhanced sexual congress is about to be born when a bomb destroys the hospital, forcing Max to wheel Marianne, now his wife, into the street on her bed so their daughter can be delivered amid collapsing buildings, air-raid sirens and the Luftwaffe flying overhead.
By the time the plot finally does get going with the revelation that Marianne might actually be an undercover Nazi spy, Zemeckis has already spent so long fruitlessly trying to convince us of the non-existent chemistry between Pitt and Cotillard it’s hard to care. They’re like automatons simulating a pre-programmed idea of raw passion.
On general release