Out Now On-Demand
The enemy is listening.
Director Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) teams up with screenwriter Steven Knight (Locke) for this war drama starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard.
Intelligence officer Max Vatan (Pitt) and French Resistance fighter Marianne (Cotillard) first encounter each other behind enemy lines in 1942 North Africa. Reunited in London, their relationship begins to succumb to the pressures of war.
Action, Drama, Thriller, Romance, War
Rating: M Violence, offensive language, sex scenes & content that may disturb
Directed by Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Flight), Allied is a cinematic Turducken of sorts. Take a weepy romance, insert into spy intrigue, wrap that in epic WW2 drama, and then chuck into stunning 1940s couture. The story begins in Casablanca, where Canadian spy Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) falls in love with French resistance member Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard), on an undercover mission to assassinate the German ambassador.
Pitt plays it suitably but impenetrably stony, and would have been doing the mannequin challenge if not for the velvety allure of Marion Cotillard. There's no denying the pair’s dazzling old Hollywood star power is well-suited to a film clearly in love with the era. After the mission is up, the happy couple move to London, have a child together, and build a blissful life. That is, until Max receives a call from British Intelligence claiming that his wife isn’t who she says she is.
Allied blows up like a big old blimp, but slowly starts to deflate as the second half fails to maintain tension. The plot becomes hinged on one single ‘Guess Who’ question that could have been mined much further for suspense and mind-fuckery. Zemeckis himself seems to be in two minds about how much he cares, at times executing superb set pieces and impressive, dramatic blitz scenes, and other times using clunky flashbacks and corny dialogue to patronisingly retread the very simple central conflict.
The locations and costumes are beautifully detailed, but how much you buy in will depend on your penchant for the sweeping, breathless cinema of days gone by. Allied is a good yarn that seems impressive at first but - just like the Turducken - is trying to pull off a few too many things at once in the pursuit of being epic.
Time Out London
New York Times
Stuff.co.nz (Sarah Watt)
NZ Herald (Russell Baillie)
NewsHub.co.nz (Kate Rodger)
Action-packed espionage but with an ordinary script and unconvincing performances
The classic ruse in the espionage thriller genre is to keep us in the dark about who is the double-agent. The film Allied (2016) is based on the premise that the romantic heroine might be a spy for the other side and asks what happens if she is caught. Beautiful filming on nostalgic locations and top-tier talent raises expectations for this film but they are disappointingly let down by an ordinary script and unconvincing performances.
In 1942, Canadian intelligence officer Max (Brad Pitt) is parachuted into Cassablanca to terminate a high-ranking Nazi. He poses as the husband of French Resistance fighter Marianne (Marion Cotillard) in order to infiltrate local German society until the mission is complete. They become romantically involved and after the mission escape to London where they really do marry. The couple are blissfully happy until Max is informed that his wife is suspected of being a double-agent. If proven, he must execute her or he will be hanged for high treason. Furthermore, until the investigation is complete he must continue as if nothing unusual was happening.
Woven into this plotline are several action-filled twists to flesh out the narrative and to keep the audience guessing about Marianne. This film does not lack action but it does have a serious believability deficit. From the opening parachute descent, to the various set-piece shoot-outs until the final shot, there are just too many scenes that feel fake. For example, after carrying out the mission in full view of German soldiers they leave the building with as much panic as a couple rushing for a bus hoping nobody notices their machine guns are not baguettes. And after a German bomber is shot down outside their house they grab a picnic blanket and their baby to sit near the smoking aircraft as if lounging by a duck-filled pond. Regardless of how rugged or violent the scene, this espionage glamour-couple keep their makeup intact and fashionable clothes neatly pressed but are devoid of any chemistry or genuine emotion.
What works for the debonair James Bond with his legendary aura of British reserve-under-fire simply does not work for Brad Pitt. Bond has gravitas and panache; in this role, Max only manages parody. Flat lines like “I’ve looked into her soul” epitomise the plasticity of script and delivery. Once credibility goes, a film rarely recovers. Like many scenes in this film, the climactic moments are shallow melodrama whereas they could have been a real gut-wrencher. Apart from great photography, there is little to commend in this film.
They'll always have Casablanca...
The first act of Allied contains basically everything I want from a glossy, old-fashioned Hollywood crowd-pleaser – photogenic and well-matched stars delivering nimble, witty dialogue, an intriguing story unfolding in a charismatic location, plush production values, evocative art direction, and Marion Cotillard in a slinky evening gown mowing down Nazis with a sub-machinegun. To be perfectly frank, this last sight is something I never knew I needed to see so badly – this, friends, is the sort of thing cinema was invented for.
Once the action moves from Casablanca to London, a lot of the movie’s fizz evaporates, and for the next hour or so we get a solid if unspectacular espionage potboiler punctuated with some entertaining but ridiculous details (the baby delivery scene really has to be seen to be believed…) The film was losing its way, but I was still on board, carried along by residual goodwill from the stellar opening and my hopes that the film might rouse itself for a similarly entertaining finale.
Those hopes were mercilessly dashed.
Maybe Allied’s ending made sense on the page, but after enjoying nearly two hours of gorgeous and glamourous spy shenanigans, I was left slightly dazed, wondering whether the writer and director actually understood their own movie. This ending is a disaster, a tone-deaf miscalculation that retroactively taints the entire film, a colossal failure to understand the spirit and style of the preceding two hours. Is there anyone out there who wanted this ending from this movie? And if so, dear God, why?
So it’s a shame to report that Allied is ultimately a disappointment – as far as 1940s-set romantic espionage thrillers go, Notorious still doesn’t have anything to worry about. Hell, even something as airheadedly daft as Shining Through had a superior understanding of how these sorts of movies are supposed to work. But if you’re a fan of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Allied is probably worth sitting through at least once. And, to give it its due, it does feature Marion Cotillard in a slinky evening gown mowing down Nazis with a sub-machinegun, and no ending, no matter how misguided, can completely tarnish that.
Not quite Bogie and Bergman
Zemeckis has done an okay job with this. It's very nice to look at and the story is interesting although it does roll along at too even a pace with not quite enough dynamic. I could have done without the sappy soundtrack but overall it's watchable enough. The baby should get an oscar for enduring the handknit hell the costume dept. put her into to get authenticity, while Cotillard's outfits seriously belied the concept of wartime restraint. Brad Pitt employed his very best concerned facial expressions to the nth degree. The big winner for me though was the London blitz scenes which made me very thankful I hadn't lived through it!