No inflection. That is to say, no blood in its veins. No conviction, no sensation. Humourless.
I lunge at its neck today perhaps a little unfairly, a little under-provoked, for this is not an evil film. It is, though, a two-hour-text-book diagram of a cinematic malady I have been tracing for quite some time – the Plot eating the Story. More specifically, the conviction that Plot is the cinema’s pride and joy, its most potent brush – while in truth, it is a very late and very boisterous arrival, and one most ill-befit to the medium.
(This is not to say a kind of humanity cannot be mustered in a film like this. But it is a thoroughly plastic kind, the kind that clogs up the oceans. Though there is no blood pumping through this film, like a robot it can feign an incorrigible pathway into the soul, by doing and saying the right things, and appearing credible – case in point, Cotillard’s posthumous letter: nothing to it. In fact, quite appropriately, Mr. Pitt has a strange, waxy face in this movie, like a large citrus fruit. Not quite credible as skin…)
Take Plot to mean narrative, of the sort you could scribble on a producer’s napkin at a cocktail party, the cotton-wool that stuffs this movie tight. Story, on the other hand, is far richer. It doesn’t truly exist, at least not in words. It is the atmosphere, in the faces of bit-players, in the temperament of the camera and how it moves, in the emotional shape of everything, round-edged or squared.
While Plot sprawls the length of a movie, a great snake with a head and a tail, our Story lives in the crook of the scene. It has been recounted, by those beneath him, that when Hitchcock had in mind a new movie, he would explain it in terms of his favourite scenarios, little vignettes and short stories he wanted to film – situations later to be broomed together by some sorry writer.
A mediocre movie, like Allied, delivers itself width-ways, letter-box shaped for steadiness; a terrific film will deliver itself up-right, diagonally at the very least. Literature can exist sideways quite happily; turn it ninety degrees and you should have a good movie.
War, Drama | USA, 2016 | 12A | Paramount Pictures | 25th November 2016 (UK) | Dir.Robert Zemeckis | Brad Pitt, Marion Cottilard, Jared Harris, Lizzy Caplan, Matthew Goode