Canadian airman Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) and French Resistance operative Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard) pose as a married couple for a dangerous mission in Casablanca. Their cover story soon leads to an actual love affair and their starting a family together, but Max’s happiness is shattered when he’s told that he must take part in an investigation to determine whether Marianne is really a double agent working for the Nazis.
Brad Pitt in another WWII film, I could have sworn it was another Inglorious Basterds. It is actually a different film featuring a fascinating pairing with Marion Cotillard and unexpectedly directed by Robert Zemeckis. The trailer looked good and so did the cinematography. But regardless of how good it may look, it only goes as far as Pitt and Cotillard go and that will take some convincing.
Even though Pitt’s character is Canadian, it is still fun to pretend that he really is (at least for my sake). He plays Max Vatan, an airman, who teams with a French operative named Marianne Beauséjour (Cotillard) for a mission and who later falls in love with. Unfortunately for him, she may not be the person he thought she was when he’s told that Marianne may be a double agent working for the Germans. Not wanting to believe the truth about his wife, Max takes it upon himself to try and prove her innocence.
This film was really two different films as the first half focused on Max and Marianne’s mission in Casablanca. Max drops into Casablanca where he meets Marianne, posing as her husband so they can infiltrate a Nazi party to assassinate the German ambassador. Over their time there, they grow closer together as she teaches him how to be her husband. We also learn about her past which she hesitates to share. She does share that she’s managed to stay alive this long by “keeping the emotions real”. This does not dissuade him. He only seems to be there as her husband, however, as she appears to have already done all the work. This part was to establish their relationship but it went way too long and would have been better served as a prologue. This will become more evident later on.
Time has passed since the mission and now they are married and have a daughter. The time when Max learns about Marianne’s possible real identity is when the second half gets started. Marianne’s potential betrayal and its impact on Max was lessened by the fact that their relationship wasn’t the most believable. It just happened way too fast. Marianne’s real intentions lack context because the film glosses over her past and her character gets little development as the film focuses more on Max. The stakes were not as high as he was proving her innocence for actions that were not entirely clear.
There was still tension though as Max had to navigate around Marianne knowing that she may be a traitor. The conflict within him, having to choose between his wife and his duty, was compelling but should have warranted more of an emotional response. Despite being warned, Max continued to investigate Marianne anyway by looking into her mysterious past alluded to earlier. The film did not give away enough of her past, making these scenes feel rushed and the result lacked any payoff.
There were other characters here but they didn’t really matter here. Max was fun to watch but things were not as exciting as they should have been. Everything felt a little subdued which doesn’t lend to excitement. Again, the stakes were not high for Max and the story set itself up for a predictable end. Despite their lack of a believable relationship, Max and Marianne were still fun to watch together as their evolving dynamic was engaging. The story may not have been the most exciting but it the film was still nice to look with its depiction of Casablanca and was very authentic of the era. The film was also well shot with a more gritty and realistic style.
Pitt and Cotillard’s chemistry may not have been there but it wasn’t entirely their fault as the film poorly established their relationship and their individual writing could have been better. They were still both likable and okay individually. Pitt could have been much better as he kind of phones it in here as his lack of emotion or nuance aggravated the film’s lack of excitement. Cotillard is better and tries to lift Pitt up but fails. Her performance had emotion and she was able to convey the nuance with her character.
Overall, this was an okay, nice looking action thriller with decent performances.