ALLIES

5 out of 10

Release Date: 3rd November 2014 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Dominic Burns (UFO (2013)  / AIRBORNE (2012)  / HOW TO STOP BEING A LOSER / CUT)

Cast: Julian Ovenden, Chris Reilly, Matt Willis, Edmund Kingsley, Leon Vickers, Emmanuelle Bouaziz, David Sterne, Paul Ridley, Mark Moraghan, Felix Auer with Frank Leboeuf and Steven Hartley

Writer: Jeremy Sheldon & Dominic Burns

Trailer:  ALLIES

UnknownAllies’ film director Dominic Burns is getting better at his job. After one horror, one rom-com, one thriller and one sci-fi – he’s certainly not one for getting genre bound. He’s applied his talents to the ‘Dad Special’, yes that’s right the WW2 ‘men on a mission’ film.  For decades our Sunday afternoons have been littered with films like this and Allies at least makes the grade enough to rub shoulders with inauthentic fare like Kelly’s Heroes and Where Eagles’ Dare.  Taking a few pages out of the Sean Bean / Danny Dyer vehicle The Age of Heroes playbook from a few years ago, Allies springs very few surprises, but it is solid. Solidity is exactly what Burns and his merry men seem to be aiming for here though and why try to be flash when your audience is this easy to identify and probably please.

It’s August 1944, four British soldiers (CHRIS REILLY, MATT WILLIS, EDMUND KINGSLEY, LEON VICKERS) are sent behind enemy lines in France to steal some important maps from the Germans. They are led by an American (JULIAN OVENDEN – DOWNTON ABBEY) who has to prove his worth to the already established unit. It soon becomes apparent that our American hero is a good man, so tensions are quickly dismissed in exchange for a bunch of face-offs with the faceless Nazis and also a bizarre meeting with real-life footballer Frank Leboeuf (WHAT’S THE SCORE?) as a French Resistance hero.  As our heroes are whittled down in a series of predictably deadly scenarios we soon learn that some of the strongest friendships can be forged under the most harrowing circumstances.

Allies’ action sequences hold up well and have the requisite grit yet, (perhaps obviously) compared to the recent Hollywood WW2 entry Fury this is still small fry. It tries it’s hardest to be a real film though and it succeeds when the plot is put on hold for some welcome ballistically bolstered bombast. Elsewhere the actors wrestle with thin parts and some occasionally ropey writing and plotting, but somehow come away with their collective dignity intact. Only TV actor Steven Hartley (THE BILL) suffers with a weird American accent, whereas the ‘also’ English Julian Ovenden does a better job with his interpretation.  Two of the four Brits on the mission are despatched without building back-story or characters beyond serious Yorkshire man and eager kid – Burns needn’t have named these two characters beyond their joint fates.

Angling cynicism at a movie like this is pointless though as they’re from another era from fans of films from another era. This feels better assembled and plotted than the very similar The Ages of Heroes but it strangely suffers from the lack of star power. It’s good to see the director stretch himself with an all new cast  (he’d had an established bunch of recurring actors in his previous four movies) and he’s got some committed performers here. It’s such a shame that there’s no originality or flare here. Allies certainly doesn’t look cheap – the battles, tanks, artillery and uniforms all look like the real deal it’s just it’s all so beige and predictable.

5 out of 10 – Strictly middle of the road material for Dads and Granddads who can’t get enough of their WW2 movies. Predictable yet solid, but not as memorable as the very similarly plotted The Age of Heroes.

Review below by Matt ‘No allies’ Usher

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Julian Ovenden: Downton Abbey (TV), First Night, Foyle’s War (TV), The Royal (TV), The Forsyte Saga (TV)
  • Chris Reilly: Everest,  The Devil Went Down To Islington, Doctors (TV)
  • Matt Willis: Birds of a Feather (TV), Eastenders (TV)
  • Edmund Kingsley: Capsule, Tomorrow (2016), The Carrier, Freddie As FRO7 (voice)
  • David Sterne: Blood Moon, #Legacy,  Truth or Dare
  • Mark Moraghan: Holby City (TV), Brookside (TV), Harry Enfield & Chums (TV), Judge Dredd (1995), Waterfront Beat (TV)
  • Frank Leboeuf: What’s The Score?, The Theory of Everything
  • Steven Hartley: Doctors (TV), The Bill (TV), Rumble (TV), Christopher Columbus (1992), Split Second, Eastenders (TV)
Advertisements

One thought on “ALLIES

  1. REVIEW BY MATT ‘NO ALLIES’ USHER

    It’s World War 2 and the Hun is on the run after D-Day. Our hero, a clean-cut American superhero-type has to lead a team of crack British troops into occupied territory to get some maps or something. So in they go and try to get them. There are a few things complicating the mission: there’s a traitor somewhere and there are some pesky Germans and unhelpful French Resistance running about. But it all ends well enough with guns, explosions, tanks and unhappy toes.

    That could be the plot of almost any war film from the last seventy years. So what sets ALLIES apart? What gives it a unique place in a crowded market? Nothing, really. At best it’s a moderately rollicking boys-own adventure story which might entertain a not-too discerning viewer on a wet Saturday afternoon. At its worst, it’s an ill-researched, poorly conceived, derivative waste of time, (some) money, and (potential) talent.

    Julian Ovenden is our bland (but perfectly adequate) Captain America, the sort of resourceful soldier who inspires loyalty, and can amputate his own body parts. Beside him we have likely lad Chris Reilly as the unfortunately-named McBain (has the scriptwriter never seen The Simpsons?), a rugged scrapper who knows his own mind and doesn’t take to shiny Americans interloping and taking over his team. All is set for a clash between the know-it-all-helicoptered-in-Yank and the battle-scarred-seen-it-all-Briton. Except a clash doesn’t happen. The British team quickly realise their new boss knows what he’s doing and they fall happily into line. That makes a nice change. Kills the drama, maybe, but then again the film is called ALLIES which explains it all. There are some other members in the squad but they have cannon fodder written all over them, and I don’t remember much about them except one had a nice beret and was a bit like a young Ken Livingstone.

    Not only does the film celebrate the Anglo-American special relationship, it also fits nicely into the current narrative of Britain’s deification of the military. This thoroughly average film presents all soldiers as being honest decent men doing their damndest for what they believe in. Even the bad guy has the guts to do the decent thing for his (extremely evil) ideology. There are no cowards here (even the guy who walks away is contextualised as doing the right and honourable thing). None of the soldiers commit war crimes, the only questionable action being when a woman is summarily executed for sleeping with German soldiers (but her executioner soon pays the price so there’s a bit of poetic justice there, and he probably wasn’t a real soldier). Yes, this is a film which accepts totally the idea that no soldier could possibly do something without having a higher, noble reason for doing so. This is a film for anyone who wants to believe that the military can only do what it’s meant to do. There’s no transgression, no selfishness, no surprises. Lives are sacrificed honourably, everything is done according to the rules of war. All of which makes ALLIES dramatically inert but satisfactory at the most basic of story-telling levels. It’s as straightforward as Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

    But ALLIES has many faults. Although not explicitly about the SAS it’s clear that this is a top crack commando squad thing, the type of soldiers who don’t make silly mistakes. But they make silly mistakes. Worse than that they make cardinal errors that even I spotted. Films like this need to do their research. Although nowhere near as bad as the HE WHO DARES films (what is?) there are glaring errors (the bloke wearing the red hat popping his head over the parapet) which will really annoy fans of the genre. And these are errors easily avoided. The big impression that ALLIES leaves is that it adores and worships soldiers without knowing much about them.

    Dominic Burns is known round these parts as the director of such eccentric oddities as CUT, AIRBORNE and UFO. With ALLIES it seems he’s finally decided to give up on the whole ‘be your own man and follow your dream’ thing and instead has produced a film which, although no-one would mistake it for a real war film, is bland enough to pass as an imitation of a standard war film. The sets and locations don’t look too bad, and most of the acting’s OK (I’m not sure about the bloke back at base who seemed to think he was Anthony Hopkins, but I liked the semi-regular from The Bill as an American boss-type-bigwig-chap). The film employs a surging orchestral soundtrack which at times sounds more like a send-up, and there’s an astoundingly improbable twist to a subplot, which adds nothing other than minutes to the running time. Worse, the film has no identity. Burns’ other films had odd rough edges and quirks. The only directorial motif I discerned was Burns’ inclusion of gratuitous female nudity, something he is able to shoehorn into all his work regardless of context. So here, deep in the depths of rural France, our heroes stumble across an obliging young French lady whose only purpose is to provide tea and tits.

    If you like this sort of film you’ll have seen hundreds of better examples, but it’s passable. It’s an undemanding runaround for those who like missions which go according to plan (give or take the loss of 80% of the squad) and who either don’t notice glaring errors or don’t mind them, or enjoy laughing at them. Like the very similar AGE OF HEROES this is basically a weekend afternoon snooze-film (though you’d have to lose the swearing, gore and nudity, which doesn’t leave much.) It’s a bit strange to find a film celebrating the British-American alliance these days, but I doubt much thought went into the film’s politics. Just worked it out! This is Dominic Burns saying to Hollywood: please employ me! Well, why not? Do it Tinseltown! After all, he’s definitely not the worst we’ve got!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s