Brad Pitt as Max Vatan, Royal Canadian Air Force intelligence officer
Casablanca, Morocco, Fall 1942
Release Date: November 23, 2016
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Costume Designer: Joanna Johnston
As a fan of World War II spy stories, particularly those of the Special Operations Executive, I had been intrigued by Allied since production began last year. The film weathered (or, some say say, benefited from) the pre-release gossip that a romance between co-stars Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard had driven a nail in the coffin of the venerable Brangelina pairing, but off-screen whisperings shouldn’t diminish the impact of the finished product: a captivating period romance-thriller with all the beauty and intrigue of Casablanca in a glossy, well-executed package. (Though my hometown newspaper disagrees…) Continue reading
Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine, U.S. Army OSS officer and redneck leader of the “Inglourious Basterds”
Paris, June 1944
Film: Inglourious Basterds
Release Date: August 21, 2009
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Costume Designer: Anna B. Sheppard
Brad Pitt’s Evening Attire: Giorgio Armani
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Inglourious Basterds kicks off a two-film spree in Tarantino’s filmography focused on rewriting history with violent vengeance. In this revisionist take on World War II, a band of Jewish-American military guerillas – think The Dirty Dozen meets The A-Team – is assigned the sole task of secretly but brutally fighting their way through occupied German territory, murdering any Nazi encountered in their wake. The two-year spree of these “inglourious basterds” who give the film its title ends up in a Paris movie theater on the eve of the D-Day invasion with an opportunity to take down the German high command, including Hitler himself, to end the war. Continue reading
James Mason as Phillip Vandamm, urbane spy and secret-trader
Mount Rushmore, Fall 1958
Film: North by Northwest
Release Date: July 28, 1959
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Wardrobe Department: Harry Kress
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
North by Northwest arguably set the tone for spy films in the following decade with its suave and well-suited hero, colorful settings, and elements of dangerous romance. James Mason’s urbane Phillip Vandamm is, in many ways, the archetypal James Bond villain: sinister and deadly but with the ability to be just as charming and debonair as the story’s protagonist.
Vandamm proves to be more sensitive and romantic than one would expect, and James Mason perfectly conveys just how badly Vandamm is stung by Eve’s betrayal. He zips through the Kübler-Ross model in record time, expressing denial (laughing off Leonard’s concerns), anger (punching Leonard), and acceptance (vindictively deciding Eve’s fate “from a great height…over water”) all within seconds of the same scene. Continue reading