Movie Review: Allied (with Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard)
Allied dithers between tense spy film and emotional drama, and falls short in both.
Allied promises much but delivers little
I was excited when I first saw the trailer for Allied. A World War II setting, covert operations in German-occupied Casablanca — as a history fanatic these were all the incentives I needed. Unfortunately, Allied disappoints in the core areas that should set it apart from the conventional.
Brad Pitt is Max Vatan, a Canadian intelligence officer who joins French Resistance operative Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard) on a highly dangerous, covert mission to assassinate the German ambassador in Casablanca.
Their cover as a married couple eventually turns from field-craft to reality, and leads them to London as the Blitz intensifies. Suspicion darkens their new family life when Marianne’s loyalty is questioned however, and it falls to Max to find the truth by whatever means necessary.
With a promising plot and two headlining leads, it would appear director Robert Zemeckis has a winning film, but this simply isn’t the case. Allied suffers chiefly from its disjointed opening act, where any emotional connection with the characters and plot is completely lost from the very beginning. The romance between Max and Marianne, and in fact the entire first act, are so rushed audiences would be wise to bring an oxygen mask.
There’s simply not enough time for their relationship to be properly, and more importantly, believably established before the plot really starts to heat up. The visible strain, the growing distrust, and the danger of Marianne’s potential duplicity — all the key elements designed to build anticipation fall flat by the film’s final sequences.
Action can’t save undeveloped characters
The initial scenes in Casablanca are actually some of the most memorable; it’s just a pity Allied spends so little time there. Cinematography in the Moroccan desert is great, with sweeping dune seas, and gorgeous night vistas over the city. Before long however, the spy couple exchanges dust and bustle for dark and gloomy London.
The contrast works, but it feels a touch too familiar. North Africa is an underused theatre for World War II films, and a more focused plot combined with such an uncommon primary setting just might’ve given Allied some of the strength it sorely lacks.
Performances from both leads are certainly not poor, they just aren’t particularly noteworthy. Chemistry between the two stars was always going to be a talking point, and unfortunately there isn’t a lot of it. Given the whirlwind first act and the relatively undeveloped characters Cotillard and Pitt play though, maybe it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. It’s a shame, as with excellent costuming they certainly look the part at the very least.
The brief action sequences are probably some of Allied’s few saving graces. From a dramatic shootout in the German embassy, to a tense skirmish behind German lines, these scenes are well-choreographed and visceral, and help retain some of the danger and excitement largely missing elsewhere.
It’s baffling as to what Zemeckis tries to achieve with his depiction of World War II society in England. Rabidly bashing directors for historical errors is usually something to be avoided. Films are fiction after all, unless stated otherwise. Some creative liberties can add flair, and some can damage.
The latter applies to Allied, where Max’s sister Bridget (Lizzy Caplan) is publicly seen in a relationship with her lover Louise (Charlotte Hope). While lesbianism was not officially prohibited in England during the period depicted, lovers openly conducting relationships seems a little far-fetched.
It might not appear hugely significant on the surface, but it feels more like a forced attempt from Zemeckis to integrate present attitudes rather than reflecting those of the period in question. The result is a breaking of historical immersion for the sake of political correctness, and it just isn’t needed. 2014’s The Imitation Game plainly displayed the reality of popular sentiments toward homosexuality during the war. It really is a mystery then, why the Oscar-winning director chose to use his own, partisan version of history.
Let’s hope this doesn’t become a trend in historical films to come.
Allied is available on Digital HD and iTunes from February 14, with a DVD and Blu-ray release on February 28.