Directed by: Robert Zemeckis.
Written by: Steven Knight.
Starring: Brad Pitt (Max Vatan), Marion Cotillard (Marianne Beausejour), Jared Harris (Frank Heslop), Daniel Betts (George Kavanagh), Simon McBurney (S.O.E. Official), Marion Bailey (Mrs. Sinclair), Lizzy Caplan (Bridget Vatan), Anton Lesser (Emmanuel Lombard), Matthew Goode (Guy Sangster), Josh Dylan (Capt Adam Hunter), August Diehl (Hobar), Charlotte Hope (Louise), Sally Messham (Margaret), Thierry Frémont (Paul Delamare).
Robert Zemeckis’ Allied is a wonderful homage to the type of WWII films Hollywood produced during WWII. It is old fashioned entertainment that mixes action with romance with intrigue, and offers enough twists and turns to keep you guessing right up until the end. It stars two ridiculously good looking movie stars, doing the movie star thing to perfection. It is essentially a popcorn movie for adults who are tired of superheroes, and complain that they don’t make’em like they used to. In the case of Allied, they do.
In the film, Brad Pitt stars as Max Vatan – a Canadian officer in the RAF, who parachutes into the desert in the opening scene, before making his way to Casablanca. It’s there where he meets Marianne Beausejour – a French spy, who has gained the trust of the Germans running Casablanca. Max is posing as her husband, and they have 10 days to plan and carry out some sort of mission. Because the two are ridiculously attractive, they end having sex with each other – in the backseat of a car, in a sandstorm no less – and then, of course, falling in love, despite them both protesting that it would be stupid of them to do so. Their mission complete, the story flashes forward a year, where the pair live in wedded bliss, with their infant daughter, in England. He’s still an intelligence officer – but he’s riding a desk now. She’s traded her life of intrigue, for domestic life. They he’s called into the office of V-Section, who informs Max that they think Marianne is really a German spy. Not only that, but they need him to help them prove it – by leaving false information for her to find. If it turns up in the communications they are intercepting, they’ll know she’s guilty – and Max will be expected to execute her himself. In the meantime, he’s to do nothing, and act normal.
Allied doesn’t try to hide its influences – it fully embraces them. Casablanca is the obvious one of course, but there’s a lot else that people will recognize if they watch a lot of old movies – a little Hitchcock, a little Fritz Lang, etc. There’s more violence here than in those films of course, more sex, and more swearing – but for the most part, Allied is the type of film they could have made back in the day. The screenplay by Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises, Locke) keeps you guessing from the beginning to the end. The direction by Robert Zemeckis is wonderful – brisk and exciting. He’s spent more time this century trying to advance filmmaking from a technological standpoint through animation (The Polar Express, Beowulf, A Christmas Carol) or special effects (The Walk) – but this film, like Flight from a few years ago, is more proof than when he wants to, he can deliver good, old school, mainstream entertainment.
The reason the film works is the performances by the two stars. The movie is perfect example of why Pitt is one of the biggest stars in the world – because he’s excellent in roles like this that requires him to be suave, charming and sexy in the first half, then mounting anger in the second, capped off with tears. It’s a full blown movie star role, and right now, few if any can do that better than Pitt. Cotillard is even better as she’s got a more complex role of course – we in the audience are required to fall for her in the first half, and then go back and forth on her motives in the second. She has to sell both possibilities – that she’s guilty, and hiding, or that she is completely oblivious – and do so without giving the game away. She does it wonderfully.
I’m not going to argue that Allied is a particularly deep piece of entertainment – nor that it’s original in any real way. It isn’t – it a straight up, old school homage to spy thrillers of the 1940s, but done with such style and flair that you hardly care. There is room for the more paranoid, down to earth spy stories of say John Le Carre – and the grand romanticism of Allied in the world. Once in the while, you want the latter.