Steven Knight


As a self-professed cinephile, I try to be a student of film. Admittedly I’m not as well versed in the finer points of film history and avant-garde genres as some others, though I pride myself on at least knowing the masters, from Kurosawa to Kubrick. Moreover, I try to view the classics such as Citizen Kane and Casablanca (I enjoyed the latter more than the former). The films of yesteryear give a glimpse of the glamor of Old Hollywood, replete with dashing leading men and captivating leading women. Allied harkens back to that golden era in its stars Brad Pitt (The Big Short) and Marion Cotillard (Macbeth), two spies who fall in love amidst the danger and turmoil of World War II.

Pitt stars as intelligence officer Max Vatan, whom we first meet parachuting into the middle of the Moroccan desert. Cotillard features as spy Marianne Beausejour, Max’s mission cohort who has been laying the groundwork for his arrival. Posing as husband and wife although only having just met, I was enchanted by the delicate dance between characters, Marianne taking the lead as a compliant Max deferred to her expertise. Having to play the role of lovers (of course) leads to real feelings between Max and Marianne, but their focus is razor sharp – and in one scene Max reminds the audience that even though he is maintaining an outward charade, he cannot afford to let his guard down, as any momentary lapse in judgment could not only cost him the mission, but their lives.

It’s tempting to glance at this film and compare it to Mr. & Mrs. Smith, another film in which Pitt and his female co-star are featured as married spies. That would be a mistake, as any comparisons are superficial. Allied is a far superior film, though to be fair both movies have their place. Not purely a love story, Allied should appeal to an array of viewers with its air of romance and intrigue. Writer Steven Knight (Burnt, Locke) punctuates the story with suspense and danger, equal parts action and love story. Pitt and Cotillard’s chemistry is undeniable, both organic and intentional. Pitt hasn’t been this magnetic on screen in years, and veteran director Robert Zemeckis (Flight) depicted every detail beautifully, effectively capturing every passionate, dangerous moment between the two sizzling leads. In one unforgettable scene Max and Marianne make love in the middle of a sandstorm, the swirling sands rocking their car to and fro as they reach their pique within.

I can’t find a single fault with Allied, a well-acted, well-written, beautiful film with something for everyone: action, suspense, love, and mystery. Stylish and atmospheric, it was reminiscent of a bygone era but will undoubtedly appeal to contemporary audiences. This was one of the better films I’ve seen in 2016. Grade: A.



I believe the hallmark of a good actor is range. Versatility keeps your performances fresh and gives audiences something to look forward to. To that end, I find Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) one of the most versatile, talented actors around. He’s adept at romantic roles and action movies alike. One minute he is giving Batman hell, the next he’s wooing Reese Witherspoon. I haven’t been disappointed by any of his movies…until now.

Locke gives us a night in the life of Ivan Locke, a construction planner who is in for a very late, difficult evening. Instead of heading home as planned for a fun night with his wife Katrina and two sons, he is diverted out of town to witness the birth of his illegitimate child. He cheated on his wife the previous year with a co-worker named Bethan, the tryst resulting in a pregnancy. Instead of confessing to his wife, he’s remained silent until now, after Bethan goes into labor earlier than expected. We see Ivan make a series of phone calls to various people, including Katrina and Bethan. He also speaks extensively with a co-worker and with his boss, as his unexpected change of plans threatens to deter an important launch for his company.

It may seem like I’ve revealed a lot about the plot; but this is probably not a movie you’ll be seeing anyway, unless you’re a big fan of Hardy. The entire film consists of Locke in his car, driving to the hospital to see Bethan. The other characters are heard but not pictured. For all but five minutes of the film, we are watching Locke behind the wheel of his BMW, using the vehicle’s hands-free calling. The static environment was confining, and while Hardy’s acting was superb – it’s difficult to watch a character engage in such mundane activity for an hour and a half. Moreover, Hardy is literally the only character we see in the film. We can’t witness him interact with other characters in the traditional sense, which adds to the sense of confinement.

There were some elements of the movie I found effective, namely the fine job by Hardy. His range is impeccable, and he brought a sense of righteousness to the character, despite his abject infidelity. He has the requisite talent to carry a film. Furthermore, the film relies on the strength of verbal and audio performances, as we hear but never see the people with whom Locke is involved. This was not a passive viewing experience, as I found myself oddly engaged yet wanting the movie to be over. It took me about 45 minutes to realize that no climactic event was forthcoming.

Past movies have successfully employed some of the aspects of the film that didn’t quite work here for writer/director Steven Night (Eastern Promises). There have been movies that featured a solitary character (I Am Legend), a static setting (Phone Booth), or have relied heavily on a character’s voice (Her). But those movies either had varied settings or were infinitely more exciting than watching a person talk and drive. I can appreciate subtlety as much as the next person, but only to a point. The concept was interesting, but I thought it would have made a better short film. The plot wore thin pretty quickly. If you’re having trouble sleeping, this movie should do the trick. Grade: C