UK Release Date: 25th November 2016
Runtime: 124 minutes
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writer: Steven Knight
Starring: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris, Lizzy Caplan, Matthew Goode, Anton Lesser
Synopsis: A soldier falls in love with a French ally on an intelligence mission and later marries her. When his superiors suggest that she may be a German spy, he refuses to believe it.
Robert Zemeckis is one of the more eclectic veteran filmmakers around today, content with crowd-pleasing romps like Back to the Future, awards-courting dramas like Forrest Gump and movies that push the limits of CGI, such as The Walk. His latest film is a rather different proposition, in the shape of World War Two romance Allied. Prior to its release, the film was defined by the tabloid wittering surrounding whether it may have played a part in the Brangelina divorce, casting Marion Cotillard as some sort of man-stealer. With that nonsense largely debunked, it’s time for the movie to speak for itself.
Canadian intelligence officer Max (Brad Pitt) arrives in Casablanca for an undercover mission, which will culminate in the assassination of a high-ranking Nazi. He is paired with French fighter Marianne (Cotillard) and they must pose as husband and wife. They fall in love for real and marry after the operation is complete. Later, Max is informed by superior Frank (Jared Harris) that Marianne is believed to be a German spy. He is ordered to investigate her and, if necessary, kill her himself or be hanged for treason.
Allied is a deeply bizarre film that has one enormous central issue. It’s a story that hangs squarely on a central romance that is impossible to believe. Pitt and Cotillard both provide relatively competent performances, with Cotillard in particular able to elegantly convey the beguiling mystery of her character. However, there is absolutely no discernible chemistry between the two actors, making a mockery of the tabloid rumours. With the exception of one enjoyably overblown scene of love making in the midst of a sandstorm, there’s no sizzle between them, which leaves the film irreparably castrated.
Zemeckis, too, seems somewhat hamstrung by his devoted attempts to recapture the classic Hollywood feel of sweeping romances like Casablanca – the film’s setting isn’t an accident. This attempt to wrangle a throwback tone is not only dated, but completely undermined by the CGI sheen Zemeckis paints over every shot. The man who stumbled down the ‘uncanny valley’ with The Polar Express cannot resist enhancement that leaves Allied feeling inauthentic and false. One scene in which Pitt shuffles a deck of cards ostentatiously is rendered laughable by Zemeckis’ insistence on computer embellishment.
The plot, too, unfolds in an entirely predictable fashion. It’s an elegant tale, but one robbed of any urgency or forward momentum by its unconvincing evocation of the world during the war and its poor characterisation. Supporting characters fare even worse than the leads, with the likes of Jared Harris simply wheeled out every 15 minutes to say something threatening in a posh accent.
Allied is in many ways a film let down by its ambition. With a more reserved director and actors with a little less in the way of A-list baggage, this could have been a compelling tale of romance and deceit. In the hands of this team, though, none of it rings true and it feels doomed to live in the shadow of its classic cousins and the timeless love stories that they told.
Pop or Poop?
Robert Zemeckis delivers an unconvincing big-screen romance in Allied, which is a little too grand and therefore throws its flaws into sharp focus. The needless CGI robs the film of period authenticity and a lack of any electricity between Pitt and Cotillard leaves both actors far short of their best work.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
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