Directed by Robert Zemeckis.
Starring Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris, Lizzy Caplan, and Matthew Goode.
ALLIED is the story of intelligence officer Max Vatan (Brad Pitt), who in 1942 North Africa encounters French Resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard) on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Reunited in London, their relationship is threatened by the extreme pressures of the war.
Regularly following on the heels of friend and regular co-star, George Clooney, Brad Pitt’s next natural step after playing out the heists, and producing films of his own, is to direct. Until that happens, however, he also needs to try out the matinee idol persona. He’s long been the pin-up, and typical movie star, similar to Clooney, but at a loss with another market. Pitt’s demographic is relatively young (arguably, the 20-40 crowd), yet recently he’s been in a lot of adult films, including 12 Years a Slave and The Big Short. And before he locks down the youthful audience again with World War Z 2, Allied continues his streak of developing that older audience he’ll soon be face-to-face with age-wise. Robert Zemeckis, too, a director known for his vigorous Back to the Future series, and zany Who Framed Roger Rabbit, has also moved into more mature territory, with Flight and The Walk, of late.
Allied is a very typical war movie, cut from the cloth of those famous 1940/50s thrillers. There’s espionage, action and, most importantly, romance. It’s unlikely to draw in the teenagers and twenty-year-olds, but that older audience, who can make up such a big percentage at the cinema time-to-time, will lap it up. In regards to these points, Allied feels very niche in some respects. It’s not trying to reach a varied audience. Internationally, it works, with the Canadian/American/British/French cultures, and it taps into that grand idea of countries working together, with the drama of the hidden tensions, too. It needs the older audience to take the trip to the cinema, and imaginably most who do will enjoy it.
At the heart of Allied is the story of soldiers-of-war Max and Marianne (Pitt and Marion Cotillard), assassinating a Nazi officer in Casablanca, and falling in love during the planning process. However, the elements of spying and agendas soon jeopardise the relationship once Max is informed about the possibility of Marianne being a spy. It’s a tale that works so well, from seeing the “act” of war from the beginning, and the clear love the couple share. Pitt and Cotillard don’t always convince as that couple, but the scenarios they are given help build up this image of a happy family, and the dread of it all as a façade.
Steven Knight (of Peaky Blinders and Eastern Promises fame) has written a moderately gripping script, which has decent direction, and credible performances. It’s not something that will stay with you for much long after, but it is blessed with some great set pieces, and a truly beautiful aesthetic, and leading pair. It is the look and feel of the film that is the best part of Allied, and production designers, the costume department, and location scouts, should be praised for creating a very authentic WWII film.
This isn’t Pitt’s first war film, nor is it the first film for Cotillard where she’s been immersed in the past, and something about their style and charisma places them into the period brilliantly. The opening scenes – set in Casablanca (where else?) – instantly indicate the mood and style, and Pitt and Cotillard appear akin to Errol Flynn, Gary Cooper, Ingrid Bergman or Jane Russell, respectively. All this certainly helps draw you into the story, and as the narrative progresses, and the spy angle comes into play, it can get very riveting.
As immersive as the film may be (and Zemeckis is an expert at this), and as terrific as Pitt and Cotillard look in the film, there is little spark to Allied. Drama comes and goes – and occasionally hits the mark – but it isn’t something that yearns for your visit to the cinema. Were it not for some explicit violence (a handful of bursts), and some infrequent sex, Allied would work well as an afternoon movie to catch on ITV.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★