5 out of 10
Release Date: 3rd November 2014 (DVD Premiere)
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
Allies’ 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)