Despite some chemistry issues, Allied is a tense, unpredictable World War II romance drama that reinforces the notion that love is a battlefield. War might be hell, but watching this spy thriller unfold is fairly close to heavenly.
Canadian intelligence officer Max Vatan (Brad Pitt, 12 Years a Slave) is assigned a likely suicide mission. He has to take out a top Nazi official stationed in Casablanca. Max won’t go it alone though. French Resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard, Inception) has been posing as his wife and making close connections with the German officials. It doesn’t take long for genuine feelings to develop.
Director Robert Zemeckis (Flight) patiently sets up Allied’s first act. It’s almost a little too straightforward, but it’s necessary to make screenwriter Steven Knight’s twist so effective. If possible, try and avoid any spoilers or overly generous summaries.
With such a fascinating setup, it’s surprising Pitt is off his game. It’s easy to see why Marianne would be so appealing, but Pitt fails to make Max equally irresistible. Pitt’s pal, George Clooney, might have been a better fit for the role as he exudes a hard to duplicate natural charisma. Pitt is too forced and disengaged early on.
Following the twist, Pitt perks up and plays more in line with regular expectations of a Brad Pitt performance. Fortunately, his co-lead is consistently fantastic with her performance.
Like her character, Cotillard is the life of the movie. She has an effortless grace and poise that recalls the vintage performers of that 1940s era. Cotillard has the more complex role and she brings a staggering sense of vulnerability, contentedness and bliss. Potential award contenders are building strong cases now, but Cotillard definitely should be in the mix with her performance. Jared Harris (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) also offers a strong supporting role as Max’s commanding officer Frank Heslop.
Cinematographer Don Burgess stages some beautiful shots like the opening sequence of Max parachuting into the desert or air raid lighting up the distant skyline. There’s no shortage of magnificent shots throughout. And the fantastic costumes by Joanna Johnston (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) definitely help provide that feeling of being transported back to 1942.
As a movie set during World War II, Zemeckis doesn’t shy away from the terrors of war even with this more character-focused drama. Zemeckis doesn’t glamorize the violence. It’s sudden, shocking and frequently results in the abrupt end of life. This matter-of-fact approach might be even more jarring to some viewers accustomed to more deliberate and drawn out portrayals of war.
Allied starts off like it will take the safe route and tell a decent traditional spy romance. Thanks to the twist, Allied evolves into a much more interesting film that’s smart, packed with tension and unpredictable to the last act.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10