Review of reviews: Film
Directed by Robert Zemeckis (R)
Wartime loyalties test two spies in love.
Here’s an interesting throwback, said Justin Chang in the Los Angeles Times. Paying tribute to classic Hollywood films about love, betrayal, and wartime espionage, this “handsomely crafted, fitfully effective” drama asks Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard to meet a standard set by Bogart and Bacall, and even when the movie loses its footing, there’s something “unmistakably touching” about its commitment to an onscreen world “so heroically out of step with its times.” Pitt plays a Canadian special operative and Cotillard a French Resistance fighter. They’re thrown together on an assassination mission in 1942 Casablanca. But while the stars have chemistry said Tirdad Derakhshani in The Philadelphia Inquirer, they’re “hobbled by some seriously uninteresting banter” on their way to completing the task and marrying. Pitt’s Max Vatan then learns that his wife might be a double agent who’ll need to be assassinated, and some of the ensuing action is actually quite fun—“until you realize those scenes are supposed to make you cry.” But viewed in the right spirit, Allied proves a fascinating experiment, said Stephanie Zacharek in Time. Every scene feels false precisely because Allied’s aim is to evoke the experience of watching a favorite old movie. “Somehow, almost incomprehensibly, it all works.”
Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker (PG)
A Polynesian princess ventures out to sea.
Disney’s latest princess is no Cinderella, said Richard Roeper in the Chicago Sun-Times. Instead, Moana is “a Girl Power role model swooping into theaters at just the right time.” Disobeying her chieftain father, the headstrong teenage Pacific Islander sets sail on a quest to save her people from famine and is joined on her journey by Maui, a trickster demigod. “Bursting with gorgeous visuals, filled with inspirational messages, chock-full of clever humor, and seasoned with a handful of catchy, hook-driven pop songs,” Moana is “an animated film in every sense of the word.” Not that it’s a classic, said Brian Truitt in USA Today. Moana is a bit slow to set sail, and “the plot drifts at times when she’s on the water.” But the movie overcomes its weaknesses, thanks to its commitment to Polynesian culture, its “considerable” humor, and “an MVP voice performance” from Dwayne Johnson as the peacocking Maui. Besides, even a “good-but-not-great” contemporary Disney animated movie “can feature moments that take your breath away,” said Dan Kois in Slate.com. The finale is so dazzling “it sent my kids out of the theater delirious with glee.”
Directed by Jeff Nichols (PG-13)
An interracial couple overturns the status quo.
Jeff Nichols’ latest feature tells a true story about a groundbreaking Supreme Court case, but it’s “the furthest thing from a triumphalist courtroom thriller,” said Ella Taylor in NPR.org. Like its reluctant heroes, Richard and Mildred Loving, the movie is “modest, quiet, and deep.” In 1958 Virginia, the Lovings were pulled from their marital bed for breaking the state’s anti-miscegenation law, and for the next decade they were effectively banned from making a home with their children there. But Nichols is less concerned with grandstanding speeches and trial surprises than depicting two ordinary people’s devotion to each other. Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga prove “terrifically” subtle as the beleaguered husband and wife, “capable of conveying a wellspring of feeling through nothing but their eyes and mannerisms,” said A.A. Dowd in AVClub.com. Unfortunately, they don’t get much else to do, and “watching two people patiently wait for the world to change is not the stuff of crackerjack drama.” That’s what makes Loving a “quietly radical” film, said Ann Hornaday in The Washington Post. It’s not about bad guys or good lawyers; it’s a movie about love and about home, and “it lives up to its title with elegant, undeniable simplicity.”