Robert Zemeckis started his career by winning the Student Academy Award at USC for his student film, A Field of Honor. He reached the pinnacle of his career by winning the Academy Award for Best Director for Forrest Gump.
His latest film is Allied. In 1942 North Africa, Canadian intelligence officer Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) meets French Resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard) on a secret mission behind enemy lines. The couple reunites in London and get married, eventually having a child together. Their relationship is strong and normal but becomes threatened by the brink of war, as Vatan is presented with the possibility that Beausejour is a sleeper spy working for the Germans. Vatan is then placed under considerable pressure to kill Beausejour himself or to be executed for failing to obey orders. Convinced of her innocence, he sets out on a very dangerous mission to clear her name.
Zemeckis breaks down the Allied synopsis. “It’s absolutely a story of betrayal. That’s a universal theme of this film. It’s about how we react when we find out people aren’t really who they say they are. It’s complicated in a world of spies and espionage because people aren’t who they say they are. It’s complicated by the fact that you’re always aware the enemy is listening.”
He then elaborates on the tone of the film. “The movie has a large, sweeping, romantic feel in the beginning. When we start the film in Casablanca, we wanted it to evoke the Casablanca that we know from the movie Casablanca. It was the French Riviera of Africa. It was very elegant and stylish. It was populated by the Vichy French. It had all the sophistication that you would have found on the French Riviera in that era. That’s how we presented it in the film.”
Sure, a great director and cinematographer can create a romantic feel with sweeping camera work. On the other hand, no matter how great a director or cinematographer might be, you can’t create a romantic feel if your leads don’t have the chemistry for the audience to buy into.
“One of the things that a director is always praying for when he’s making a movie that’s a romance is that there’s chemistry between your leads. I was grateful to see that there was fantastic chemistry between Brad and Marion from the beginning. They had that movie star spark that happens. When they’re playing their characters, they truly gave us what we want from an emotional standpoint. I was very fortunate that they had this great chemistry.”
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