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Culture/Reviews > Movies
Movie reviews from Proletarian Internationalist Notes—news, reviews and analysis from a global perspective
“Allied” appears as an escapist movie about anti-Nazi resistance in a world that needs more anti-Americanism
Dir. Robert Zemeckis
Starring Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard
R, 124 minutes, 2016
reviewed December 5, 2016
Full disclosure: The movie this reviewer really wanted to watch was “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” So my attitude going into the auditorium to see “Allied” wasn’t the most enthusiastic.
By the time the credits were rolling, I had written nothing on my notepad. That could mean either there was nothing that really stood out about the script or the movie was so enthralling. No doubt for some “Allied” was an excuse to watch Brad Pitt (“Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” “Babel,” “Inglourious Basterds,” [“Fury”](https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2016-04-30-movie-Fury.md)) and/or Marion Cotillard (“Inception,” “Macbeth”) get naked in an exotic location, while on a date themselves at the theater, not much else. Partly set in Morocco under French colonial control, “Allied” depicts Muslims mostly as scenery. Vincent Ebrahim, who has an “ethnic” appearance, does play a driver in the desert at the beginning of the movie and says a few words.
“Fantastic Beasts” is set in the 1920s, and the “Harry Potter” franchise has dealt with fascism allegorically. “Allied” is supposedly based on a remembered story told orally decades ago as if it were a true story, though it would only be loosely based on that story – mostly fiction. Regardless, “Allied” purports to have a real geographical and historical setting. It purports to be a World War II movie explicitly at a time when, for example, some are saying they won’t work with or even advise the incoming Trump administration because it is fascist supposedly, that doing so would be evil in a way that talking with a President-elect Clinton’s team apparently wouldn’t have been. The movie depicts an assassination of a German ambassador at a time when seemingly hundreds of thousands of Americans have in one setting or another made jokes or statements about assassinating Trump, and others in some cases – a matter this writer mentions because some have treated the jokes and outbursts as evidence of a basis for a broad anti-fascist united front within the United States, or suggested that only assassination talk about Clinton is reactionary.
The possibility that if there were more of a realized or potential revolutionary movement in the United $tates or a real basis for broad, strong anti-fascist unity, there would be less assassination talk, seems to elude many. There was little resistance to speak of in Germany, and that was when Germans were less rich and less privileged than they are now. Whether Germany was losing or gaining in the war at a given time, assassination efforts were of questionable value. “Allied” addresses that in a way. Although, “Allied” doesn’t focus on the small so-called German resistance.
The united $tates is a rich country whose population has high living standards globally and benefits from international exploitation and oppression. The united $tates is the #1 exploiter, oppressor and aggressor on the planet. Regardless of the extent to which fascism exists inside u.$. borders or not, there are reasons for various countries to target the united $tates as an enemy. Focusing on the fascism topic could thus be misleading.
“Allied” depicts Canadian, French resistance and British intelligence officers/operatives who obviously represent interests of capitalists and other exploiters or parasites, not socialist countries. (The married couple played by Pitt and Cotillard are undercover spies, coordinated by the British, from different nations carrying out a mission against Germany in Morocco.) Germany hadn’t achieved hegemony globally, but the threats posed by German fascism, after the war started, eventually united many different countries across the globe. (The 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack happens to be in two days. After declaring war on Japan, the united $tates declared war on Germany a few days later and after Germany had already invaded many countries, including the Soviet Union almost six months before the Pearl Harbor attack.) Fascism is just one possible reason among others for such a united front.
Brad Pitt plays Canadian wing commander Max Vatan, operating out of London with Britain’s Special Operations Executive. Max dreams of living on a ranch in Canada after the war. Apart from these things, and though who Max is could be taken for granted as a hardened anti-Nazi with elite combat skills whom the viewer follows from beginning to end, Max’s ideology and political beliefs remain somewhat unclear. The Allies included the Soviet Union, and the focus was on fascism, so some sympathy for socialism couldn’t be ruled out entirely. (The Amerikans and their allies are still ideologically inclusive today, with tolerance for both atheism and hard-core Christianity, and so-called socialism, as long as there is unity with a country or group on attacking Muslim and Third World countries.) Max never claims to be a communist or a socialist, though. The oppressed still have fond memories of people like Canadian Norman Bethune, a doctor who became interested in the social basis of disease and ended up becoming a communist who helped China and the Chinese communists before ey died in that country toward the end of 1939. Bethune as a communist supported bourgeois anti-fascist forces in Spain years before World War II began, but is often remembered mainly as a communist who associated with the Chinese. Both Canada and communism deserve credit for Norman Bethune, but today there is an even greater need for an idea of unity involving forces, that might not be considered leftist, in capitalist countries.
Of course the Britons, Canadians and French resistance were allies of the united $tates, but this reviewer doesn’t remember a single amerikan appearing on the screen. Unless i am mistaken, there is no Soviet character either. Socialist or imperialist, there is no Soviet Union today, and there is no World War II -like war between rich imperialist countries now, but the united $tates has become a hegemonic superpower. The idea of unity between various capitalist countries against a particularly threatening aggressor – in reality today the united $tates – is correct. It is as correct with the united $tates today as it was during World War II with Germany and Japan as diehard enemies of the world’s people. Such unity is possible without internal u.$. fascism.
Even if there were an exploited working class in the united $tates, which there basically isn’t, the optimistically patriotic, pseudo-socialist and pseudo-leftist idea of uniting or serving 99% or even 90% of the u.$. population – or people representing such a large and variegated breadth – before and after Trump’s election, had obvious fascist implications itself. People in the united $tates at the 90th percentile income-wise are able to be capitalists who don’t have to work at least for a few decades of adulthood, certainly in comparison with what is often counted as bourgeois or proletarian in the Third World. So notions of unity of the 99% or 90% could easily involve class collaboration with amerikan imperialists in the face of long and tortuous anti-amerikan revolution or protracted diplomatic, economic and political struggle against the united $tates. Talk of fascism inside the united $tates when it doesn’t exist, or opposition to “fascism” based on uniting or serving the u.$. 99% or 90%, could itself lead to fascism and extremely reactionary repression. In this context, it is hard to view the assassination talk and death jokes about Trump as other than reactionary in nature. Clearly there is a situation ripe for fascist provocation.
Even a (u.$.) Democratic idea of uniting 50% + 1, or just non-whites and/or females, from different classes could be fascist. Without a strong oppressed national (Chican@, New Afrikan) and anti-amerikan perspective, even an idea of uniting 90% of just some large non-white group in the united $nakes could be fascist in a not-obvious way.
Some of the amerikan movies and TV shows depicting fascism or assassination recently are therefore disturbing. In addition, imperialists are better at the kind of intelligence and counterintelligence generally depicted in “Allied” than the oppressed and non-imperialist classes are. At the same time, there is a role for elites and states of imperialist countries to play against the united $tates. Saying that is an admission there isn’t much of a proletariat in the First World. So, while there are obvious problems with the plot (pun intended) in “Allied,” this reviewer can criticize the movie only so much. Even Britain, Canada, France, and Germany – all rich imperialist countries and close allies of the united $tates today – have economic and political conflicts with the amerikans and could be persuaded to pursue their own interests independently of the united $tates’ interests, in some cases and in some struggles. Even some Zionist elites in the I$raeli entity could be persuaded to support the two-state solution that the AmeriKKKan entity in North America opposes in actuality. If there were more of a proletariat or revolutionary class in “Israel” apart from some Palestinians in “Israel” and some of the recent migrants from relatively poor countries, saying such a thing might be inadvisable.
Regarding the romantic content of “Allied,” there is little for this reviewer to complain about. Obviously things don’t end up well for Max and Marianne Beausejour, the French resistance character played by Cotillard. Max and Marianne become intimate sexually and romantically despite being aware of the risks. The sometimes-implausible scenes showing Max’s efforts to disconfirm a suspicion about Marianne, which contribute to making the movie a thriller with action elements, also serve another purpose. That is to the show the difficulty of relying on others’ or one’s own biographical investigation to prove or disprove espionage committed by a certain individual in an intimate context, coerced or not. Multiple sources Max trusts could conceivably be inaccurate about various things, themselves misinformed, etc.
In a particularly artistic scene that was breathtaking to watch in a theater, Max and Marianne first have sex in the middle of a dust storm. Danger swirls around them violently. They are lost in the moment. The sex seems to serve no spying purpose then, because they both anticipate dying in an operation that is about to take place. Marianne had drawn a distinction between sex and feelings as what is most responsible for defeating someone in a relationship in an arena rife with spying, but Marianne warns that Marianne’s own genuine feelings that ey shows are dangerous. The lesson there is that even genuine feelings of both persyns are no guarantee there won’t be spying by one of them or a third party. It is in fact the case that spies have taken advantage of perfectly mutually innocent and sincere, and deep, relationships.
With the Tinder dating app etc. and a culture of short-term dating and sex without romance, the idea of spying through marriage to somebody apparently of one’s own choosing seems almost quaint today. Some will receive “Allied” as supporting some non-monogamous or “no strings attached” lifestyle, as if marriage were especially dangerous or oppressive, but other lifestyles have their own security issues in addition to their own social structures and dynamics.
Max is the first to object to the sexualization of eir fake relationship with Marianne. Marianne ends up playing the role of a temptress. This will irk some pseudo-feminists who may also disdain Max, attractive or not, for not being “a man” and jumping into bed with Marianne right away. Max, or the structured and disciplined mission against fascists, comes off as almost being “sexually repressive” toward eir own and Marianne’s sexuality. Also interestingly and on a later occasion when Max and Marianne are having sex, the viewer is given the impression of the two raping each other in some way as spies despite both of them enjoying the sex eventually if not equally. Marianne appears to go down on Max while Max is in the middle of undertaking a counterintelligence mission against Marianne that affects Max’s sexual interest or performance. After the evening phone call, Max gets on top of Marianne, who doesn’t know what’s going on (though Marianne could have anticipated it probabilistically).
Mohammed V, the Muslim monarch of Morocco at the time “Allied” takes place, isn’t depicted in the movie but at least verbally opposed the massacre and persecution of Jews. France and then Vichy France ruled Morocco, but there were French anti-fascists who didn’t oppose French colonial rule. Today, many French opponents or critics of the amerikans don’t oppose neo-colonialism and rivalrous attempts to compete with the amerikans for control in the Middle East, and that is tolerable to an extent at this point in history. Whether u.$. fascism exists or not anywhere, French collaboration with the amerikans can and should be opposed. ◊