Directed by Robert Zemeckis.
Starring Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris, Lizzy Caplan, and Matthew Goode.
In 1942, an intelligence officer in North Africa encounters a female French Resistance fighter on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. When they reunite in London, their relationship is tested by the pressures of war.
Allied is a remarkable film from the always reliable veteran director Robert Zemeckis (the Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Castaway, last year’s disappointingly overlooked and underappreciated The Walk) that essentially feels like three movies in one, thanks to the filmmaker’s efficiency at switching up the tone throughout each act. Allied is 1/3rd espionage action, 1/3rd World War II era romance, 1/3rd relationship trust thriller, and 100% riveting.
Each of the tones come and go gracefully as Zemeckis tells a captivating story regarding a Canadian intelligence officer falling in love with a French Resistance fighter behind enemy lines around Casablanca, who were under orders to stage a marriage together and carry out an assassination on a German ambassador. One thing leads to another (like an elegant sex scene in a car surrounded by a sandstorm, all intimately and beautifully captured) and the next thing you know, you’re watching a thriller where despite the couple starting a family, the audience has to entertain the concept that this charming gal who knows her way around a gun may or may not be a German spy.
Starting with Brad Pitt as Max, the aforementioned Canadian intelligence officer, he is suave and exudes a near James Bond level of bad-assery. Even the opening of the film showcases Max parachuting into a desert where he is then given a new identity and some money. Furthermore, it feels like all Brad Pitt did was slip right back into his Inglorious Basterds persona, as his character most definitely has a temper tantrum mean streak to his personality. Admittedly, I do wish that Brad Pitt was a little less suave at times and more like an actual human being during the other acts (especially so when he is investigating whether the mother of his one-year-old child is secretly deep undercover for the enemy or not), but he certainly fits the role and handles speaking multiple languages well enough.
It’s Marion Cotillard however that steals the show, giving Marianne a golden age Hollywood sense of grace and beauty. The Casablanca setting early on featuring vibrant and elaborate costume design certainly helps, but even when the duo are settled with a family in London, we as an audience are always tuned into her body language, facial expressions, and speaking mannerisms. Marion Cotillard knows that the hook to Allied is whether or not Marianne is genuine and loyal to her husband, or if she really is a turncoat, so she makes every scene and line of dialogue count toward getting the gears spinning in our heads as to her true intentions. At one point she remarks on Max being different under the sheets the previous night, and immediately we start coming to multiple conclusions; is she making a legitimate observation, or is she alert to the fact that Max is conducting an investigation based on the demands of his superiors.
Exceptional directing and acting aside, credit also has to be given to writer Stephen Knight, who is highly skilled at wringing out maximum intrigue and tension just from two characters sitting around talking to one another. Keep in mind he wrote and directed Locke, a movie that is literally 90 minutes of Tom Hardy having important conversations with family and coworkers while driving, yet somehow engaging. Some may consider the script and dialogue to Allied a slow burn, but it works thanks to actors that understand the material and how to convey that suspense on screen. The nature of the film always has audiences keeping their guard up, just waiting and waiting for even the slightest bit of evidence that may save or condemn Marianne.
On top of all that, Allied is simply a ridiculously fun movie to watch; it’s the kind of entertaining Hollywood spectacle that only comes around once every so often nowadays. And I don’t mean that just because of the luxurious party atmospheres and fancy costume design (this department absolutely deserves an Oscar nomination), or watching sunsets over North African deserts, but also thanks to the surprisingly bloody violence that erupts during clean and crisp shootouts. The entire German ambassador assassination sequence can only be described as awesome, and a reminder that even at age 52 Brad Pitt can still go as an action star. It also showcases just how deadly Marion Cotillard can be with a firearm.
There are a few moments in the story that come across as slightly over-the-top, and after letting Allied simmer in my mind a little while I do feel that the plot has a few holes. Some details also could have used a bit more elaboration. However, at the end of the day, Allied is captivating from every aspect of filmmaking. It’s an espionage romance that should not be missed.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★