The year is 1942 in the mix of World War 2. A lonely Canadian intelligence officer, Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) parachutes into Casablanca (French Morocco) where he meets his contact, a beautiful but deadly Resistance fighter named Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard). Their assignment is to take out a German officer and hightail it out of the country, back to safety. “Come back to England with me,” Max asks her when their mission is completed. Anywhere is safer than where they are.
Allied is a sweepingly romantic film, directed by Robert Zemeckis the multi-talented director who has brought us such classics as the Back to the Future franchise, Cast Away and one of my favorites, Flight from 2012. Mr. Zemeckis is an ambitious director who has also provided some good film in the animated field with Beowolf and The Polar Express. In fact, I have looked at his resume as a director and he has directed a wide array of different genres and with only a few duds, he ranks up there as a Hollywood legend, to me. So if anyone is going to make an homage film to the espionage classics of World War 2, like Casablanca and make it well, then Robert Zemeckis is your man.
Allied features some strong performances by the two leads in Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. There has been some Oscar buzz for Mrs. Cotillard but if you nominate her, then Brad Pitt should be next in line. Both of these performers are rock solid but both of them will probably get lost in the shuffle. Pitt’s Max Vatan is cagey, aloof and wary of his new “friend”. He tells her very little of himself and keeps his distance. Marion Cotillard’s Marianne is also leery of Max, but knows people are watching so they must sell the fact that these two are married and in love. Allied’s script, by Steven Knight, is smartly written so as to show a progressive path that these two characters travel on their way to love. They are not sure what they expect from each other, but Knight creates characters that I grew to understand and accept as real people (this film was partially based on real people in a similar story from World War 2). These are intelligent people in a horrible situation but they behave in believable ways, so I was into this story.
As the trailers reveal, Max is confronted with the possibility that his new bride is not who she says she is. In fact, British officers downright accuse her of being a Nazi spy. Max’s assignment is to bait her and wait for the results. If she is a Nazi spy, then Max is required to kill her otherwise they will think he has been turned and the British will kill them both. It is a horrible situation. Max of course, launches his own investigation to get the truth. The first part of Allied is more of the love story with espionage as a subplot. The second half of Allied, the love story and espionage story switch places. Regardless, however you slice Allied, I really dug this film. It is not perfect and there are a few scenes that seem a bit forced, but overall this is a great love story, and a superbly crafted spy story. Both stories seem to be melded together with intricate precision that is believable and compellingly involving. Director Robert Zemeckis lets the story flow, taking its time but not lingering too much on any one element.
I have read some reviews that have chastised this film for certain scenes deemed ridiculous, one involving a love scene in a car during a sand storm. I had absolutely no problem with that scene. It is well shot and edited just right. The biggest problem I had was a scene in which a woman gives birth in what is left of the hospital during a bombing raid. It was a bit too cheesy and heavy handed for me; almost soap opera-ish, if you will. I also had a slight problem with the ending in which one character is writing a letter, saying what she is writing with a voice over. First off, I don’t know anyone who actually says out loud what they are writing. If I did that with every review I have written I would have been tossed out of the house a long time ago. There is really nothing this character is saying that we don’t already know, anyway so the whole scene is serviceable but a bit too dry.
The cinematography by Don Burgess and score by Alan Silvestri are both standout and enhance the film greatly. The exotic locales are inviting and the color schemes really make the locales come alive with character. There are some nice supporting performances by Jared Harris as Max’s CO, Lizzy Caplan as Max’s free spirited sister and Simon McBurney as an intelligence officer who brings Max that terrible news. All in all, Allied is a well crafted film. I enjoyed the leads and their story and if you are going to pay tribute to those classic films of the 1940’s, you could do far worse than Allied and Robert Zemeckis is the guy to take you there.
Allied – **** out of 5
Allied – Rated R for language, partial nudity, violence and gore
Allied – Run Time is 124 minutes
Allied is now playing in theaters. Check your local listings for times and locations.