Part domestic drama, part wartime spy thriller, Allied is solid but never really inspires.
Sarah Ward
Published on January 05, 2017


Tabloid headlines aside, Allied reaches screens with a dose of deja vu. After all, this isn't the first film where we've seen Brad Pitt discover that marriage and espionage don't make for a good mix. The good news: his latest vehicle is nothing like Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Actually, that's great news. Proving far more engaging than that mediocre 2005 action-comedy isn't a big challenge, but it's one that Allied is up to— even if the end result: a war-torn, spy-centric drama doesn't always hit the mark.

Partially styled after (and sharing its initial setting with) classic World War II romance CasablancaAllied poses an age-old question in a specific context: how well does anyone actually know the people that they love? Faced with this dilemma are Canadian intelligence officer Max Vatan (Pitt) and French resistance fighter Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard), who play husband and wife in an undercover mission to dispatch with a German ambassador, only to find their faux affection becoming real. Returning from Morocco to London, wedded bliss beckons, though the combat continues to rage. Then Max receives a startling briefing, with Marianne accused of working for Germany and sharing information about the efforts of the Allies.

Accordingly, Allied becomes a film of two distinctive halves — and while both could've made for intriguing viewing if they'd been individually fleshed out to feature length, they prove slight and predictable when paired together. Making audiences want more is what all movies aim for, but here it's a case of wanting one or the other. Trying to offer a tale of spies falling in love out in the field, as well as an account of one partner investigating the other's possible betrayal, Allied flirts with more feeling, depth and interest than it shows, but remains trapped by linking the two into one narrative.

Thankfully, though surprises are largely absent, saving graces are plentiful. Pitt and Cotillard mightn't boast overwhelmingly convincing chemistry together, but each turn in fine performances in both the romantic and dramatic parts of the feature. The former plays charming but conflicted with ease, and there's a reason that the latter keeps being cast in complex, potentially duplicitous roles. They're also ably supported by Jared Harris (The Crown) as the man tasked with making Max peer deeper into the affairs of his wife, despite the obvious pain it causes.

Director Robert Zemeckis, a veteran of everything from Back to the Future to Forrest Gump, performs his duties ably, mainly in making the movie look the part. Allied is an elegant affair that seems like a response to the complaint that they just don't make them like they used to. That includes giving the feature a glossy sheen, as though it might've been shot on a studio lot seven decades ago, and inexplicably rendering the end credits text in the largest font you've probably ever seen in a closing crawl. Perhaps over-statement is the key — or perhaps it just gives an indication of the age of the intended audience of this passable period throwback.


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