The New year starts with 2 Hollywood stars giving their best at the box office- Brad Pitt [Allied] and Ben Affleck [Live by Night]. Interestingly both are ‘war’ movies. While ‘ Allied’ is s spy movie during World War 2 with a romance angle, LBN is about a war veteran turned gangster’s life.
Pitt is absolutely stunning and looks rejuvenated, younger and more energetic while he plays Max Vatan- a Canadian Intelligence office and courts the French spy Marianne Beausejour [Marian Cotillard] who poses as his wife to kill the German Chancellor. Their reel-life chemistry is amazing and not surprisingly was rumored to be the main reason for his fallout with real-life wife Angelina. After some sizzling terrace and bedroom scenes in Casablanca, he decides to make her his ‘actual’ wife and they move to London. But soon he is summoned by the officials and told that his wife is a German spy as the actual lady she is impersonating is long dead. Lizzy Caplan [‘Masters of Sex’ fame] is Max’s sister and does full justice to a brief role that she is given while Max goes on to uncover the truth.
The movie is excellently directed by Robert Zemeckis who has worked earlier with the likes of Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington. The art direction is impeccable as are the performances by Pitt and Cotillard.
While the threesome of Pitt, Cotillard and Zemeckis works magic in Allied, one couldn’t say the same about Ben Affleck in LBN. He directs the movie himself and acts well but somewhere gets confused which of the two he should be focussing on! Moreover, his character of a soldier turned bank robber turned gangster fails a credibility test despite some good acting by him. Any comparison to Argo makes it even worse.
Affleck as Joe Coughlin is not able to balance his personal life as a passionate and loyal lover with that of his professional life as a gangster during the prohibition era in Boston and later in Tampa circa 1914. His character is far more placid for a war veteran when he falls for the gangster’s [Albert White played by Robert Glenister] girlfriend Emma Gould [Sienna Miller] and subsequently works for the rival Italian gangster played by Remo Girone. There is too much going on in the movie, including the life of Tampa’s Sheriff -Figgis [Chris Cooper], that slows the pace and makes it wander aimlessly at times trying to decide whether its a gangster flick or romance saga. Chris Messina makes it livelier with his sporadic wise cracks while cliche scenes drag the movie further. Cuban Salsa, Sienna Miller and Joe Saldanha try hard in vain to save this Dennis Lehane novel turned confused gangster flick.
While both are period dramas during WW 2 and 1 respectively, Allied clearly wins the battle and the war.