Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris, Lizzy Caplan, Simon McBurney, Matthew Goode
Brad Pitt stars in another World War II film following Inglourious Basterds and Fury. Unfortunately for him Allied is the weakest of the three. It’s 1942, and he stars as Max Vatan who parachutes down in the deserts of French Morocco. He’s picked up by a designated driver and given a passport and ID cards. He is dropped off at a swanky nightclub in Casablanca where he is to meet Marianne Beauséjour (Cotillard), a French resistance fighter who will be posing as his wife. Throughout their private conversations we learn that they have ten days to pass as husband and wife by the locals before a big party they need to attend. The neighbors are definitely nosey as soon as Max enters town, but Marianne is just as conniving and able to keep up the appearance.
The night of the party arrives with Max and Marianne keeping a close eye on the clock as everything boils down to precise timing. Without giving it away, I’ll just say that once the diversion hits, their mission is successful. Weeks later, we find Max and Marianne now in love and living a new Life in London. They are married and expecting their first child. Max’s new life comes crashing down when he is told by one of his fellow officers (Harris) that Marianne may not be the woman she claims to be. They believe she is a secret German spy, and there are strict procedures that need to come into play. Either he needs to kill her or risk his life if he doesn’t follow protocol.
Allied is very much a World War II spy thriller, and I was intrigued throughout a good portion of the film. It’s hard not to get sucked into the Casablanca lifestyle that opens the film. The smoking, drinking, music, and gorgeous dresses for Marion Cotillard are very appealing. It may be the setting, but you can tell the classic film Casablanca inspired director Robert Zemeckis. Frankly, it makes me want to go back and watch the Humphrey Bogart film again. Steven Knight’s (Eastern Promises) script keeps the dialogue fairly minimal without revealing all of the cards up front. There’s a mystery set in place that made me question if both of them may be playing some sort of game. I didn’t know whom I should trust or if one would come out victorious in the end. Both are set out to be intelligent characters, and I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.
That would come once we learn that Marianne may be a spy. It was a little alarming at first, as I didn’t quite see that specific twist coming. She’s putting on a charade from the beginning so it makes sense that this may be another layer to it. Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose, The Dark Knight Rises) is the film’s high point, as she plays all the right notes to make Marianne this complex and elusive character. She can be seductive, sultry, or tough whether it’s the smaller moments with Max or when she needs to keep up appearances. I watched her every move, as she’s a captivating actress with every character she tackles.
Playing her opposite is Brad Pitt. At first I didn’t care that they chemistry wasn’t quite there as they were basically teammates on a larger mission. I didn’t take them as a serious couple but then the film switches to London and shows that they actually did fall in love and are now married. I struggled a lot with the character of Max and Pitt doesn’t help matters. I could never quite buy that he is too head over heels in love with her to believe that she couldn’t be a spy. It’s as if he couldn’t remember that they originally met under somewhat false pretenses as part of this assassination mission. There’s also that concept of them pretending to be a couple throughout their time in Casablanca. He apparently couldn’t recognize that she could be pretending to be with him this whole time as well.
I have been a Brad Pitt fan for many years and can easily separate his status as a serious actor versus him as a movie star in a high-profile marriage. For the first time in a long while, I found Pitt to be rather flat. He brings out some noble trustworthy qualities to Max, but I found him to be a very uninteresting character. The movie really rests on if you can get behind and feel sympathetic for Max trying to get to the bottom of what’s really going on with his wife. Pitt can’t bring the complexity to Max for me to care for or fall for their marriage and family. He didn’t seem as present as he normally does. I would hate to think that the recent troubles he has had in his personal life had somehow seeped into his commitment to this film. It’s hard to say exactly, but I felt rather disappointed that I couldn’t get passed the Brad Pitt image like I normally can.
Director Robert Zemeckis has had a varied career ranging from the Back to the Future trilogy, Death Becomes Her, and Forrest Gump. In recent years, he and Denzel Washington paired really well for Flight, and last year he got us to step into the shoes of Philippe Petit and The Walk. He makes the film look alluring, but that just can’t sustain the film long enough. He is able to play out the beginning section leading up to the mission at just the right tempo. It’s when he has to switch to the love story point of the film that he can’t quite make the stakes high enough. I can’t decide if would have helped with a different lead actor or if there’s not enough build in the script between the two characters. The chemistry between Pitt and Cotillard just isn’t strong enough to fix these issues. By the end, I really struggled on whether or not to recommend Allied. Cotillard always fascinates me and there is potential in this story, but I just couldn’t fully dive in. It became more and more apparent as the film’s conclusion didn’t leave me as emotionally wrought in the way it wanted me to feel.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? It may be worth a matinee but doesn’t fully deliver.
RATING: 2.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS