Polished, pulpy WWII tale how they used to make’em, for better or worse.
Like reading a dime novel from off the shelf of your local supermarket, Allied supplies a quick dose of melodrama, suspense, humor, and twists. It’s similarly digested easy, immediately emotional, and just as quickly forgotten. Director Robert Zemeckis has delivered his fair share of sensationalism, from Romancing the Stone to Forrest Gump to The Walk, and many memorable films in between (trust me, you’ve seen a lot of them). My semi-belabored point is, Zemeckis is no stranger to managing exaggerated storylines and overly dramatic plots. In Allied, he sets each scene like a stage play, without any noticeable complexity or vagueness. The complexity is left up to the characters. Yes it may be subtle, but while creating a blatant sense of the time period, the old school art direction also compliments the twists at the heart of the story — after all, this is an elaborate spy game. Pitt and Cotillard bring their serviceable ‘B’ game (not their best work but far from their worst), inflicting just enough charm and charisma into the plot to carry the somewhat nonsensical and ultimately forgettable story forward.
Brad Pitt stars as Max Vatan, a U.S. intelligence officer spying in Northern Africa (Casablanca) in 1942. He meets Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard), a French resistance fighter who teams with Vatan on a deadly mission. As their mission comes to a close and their post-war plans come closer and closer to fruition, the pressures of battles past and questionable alliances come swinging into their day-to-day lives. If you’ve seen the trailers, you know that Beauséjour is suspected of being a German spy. As you can imagine, that puts Pitt into a tough spot. That’s the driving force of tension in the second half of the film, the first made up of their meeting and initial operation together.
Allied is entertaining enough to keep your attention for two hours. It’s well-rounded and dials up the suspense with a casual frequency to a strong effect. Perhaps it’s weakest aspect is the romance between Pitt and Cotillard. As I mentioned, they’re charming for sure. But, the level of passion in the relationship didn’t convince me that Pitt would go to the lengths he does to attempt to prove Beauséjour’s innocence. The couple isn’t bereft of all passion though, as there’s at least some attachment forged between the couple and us in the audience, partly due to the ridiculousness of the couple’s most significant romantic moments. Moments like making love for the first time in the middle of a sandstorm, or giving birth during an air raid, etc. Seriously, it’s the type of pulp romantic fiction that would normally make you laugh if it wasn’t for Zemeckis’ steady directorial hand and a solid script that doesn’t let the story fall flat. The silly-looking backdrops are just part of the purposefully tailored old school aesthetic, not meant as a distraction. But in the end, that’s all Allied amounts to — a brief fleeting distraction — doomed to be a passed-over bullet point on three otherwise incredibly impressive filmographies.
Allied comes out in theaters Wednesday, Nov. 23rd.