What happens when the woman you love might not be who she says she is? What happens then, when you have a life and a child together? A romantic thriller set in a time of war, spies and secrecy, Allied (2016, dir. Robert Zemeckis) is led by Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, and is set within the gorgeously exotic surrounds of Casablanca, Morocco, and the cloudy and grey landscape of London, England. Its synopsis is as follows:
In 1942, a Canadian intelligence officer in North Africa encounters a female French Resistance fighter on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. When they reunite in London, their relationship is tested by the pressures of war. (source)
My feelings about Allied are divided; not unlike the political divide that existed between 1940s America and Nazi Germany. This is a film of two distinct halves. One half has an exciting story, a big setup with a satisfying payoff and some good character development; another contains further setups, ultimatums and consequences that are delivered in a disappointingly weak manner. Long story short, I really enjoyed the film’s first half, but the second left a lot to be desired by way of suspense and tension. I won’t be spoiling the big question of whether Marion Cotillard’s character is a secret German spy or not. Unfortunately, by the time we found out the truth of the matter, I had almost checked out. I think I actually shrugged my shoulders and said “meh” out aloud. Cotillard and Pitt are no Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in this pseudo-Casablanca (1942), but what results is a film that might be worth passing your time.
Brad Pitt exudes pure masculine charm in his role as Canadian Air Force intelligence officer Max Vatan. Armed with an obviously Quebecoise French accent, he meets with Marion Cotillard’s French Resistance fighter, Marianne Beausejour, and the two fall in love whilst working together. When this film was released, there appeared to be a lot of hoop-la around Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard being in a film together, somehow coinciding with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s divorce – inferring that the two had had an affair whilst filming. Whilst I choose not to engage in silly gossip about that kind of thing, I think it’s worth noting that whilst watching this film, I had no doubt that there was zero chance of an affair occurring on set. Because the two had absolutely no chemistry with one another. Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard are wonderful actors in their own right, and I love a lot of their films individually. But I just couldn’t pick up on the romance. It felt like a relationship of convenience based on the adrenaline of generally working as a spy, which made some of the characters’ choices questionable. However, watching Marion Cotillard’s sensitive performance of conflicted Marianne was a highlight of the film.
Aesthetically, the film is gorgeous, playing host to excellent direction by Robert Zemeckis. Honestly, Zemeckis must be the most versatile director in film history (hyperbole alert). I can’t believe Zemeckis directed this, and House of Wax (2005), and the Back to the Future trilogy, and Contact (1997), to name but a few of his filmography. They’re all such different films which reflects a real diversity in his direction and it kind of blows your mind a little bit. Zemeckis’ direction is matched with wonderful cinematography by Don Burgess, whose filmography is equally diverse. The costume design by Joanna Johnston was absolutely gorgeous. Everyone knows that gowns and suits from the 40s are classy and elegant, but Johnston also really nailed the more casual, at-home style that was so reflective of the time.
I do wonder about some of the creative choices around music in the film though. The score by long time Zemeckis collaborator Alan Silvestri was beautiful, but there were moments where there was curiously no music at all, which could have contributed to the resulting lack of suspense. I would love, in an ideal world, to see certain scenes re-cut with music in them, and assess whether there was a different impact on both myself and the film overall.
My favourite thing about watching movies is suspense and tension. I love films where you feel like you’re on the edge of your seat, feeling tortured about what could happen and how this impacts on the characters that you’ve grown to know and love within the span of approximately an hour and a half, or longer. The trailer for Allied contains a lot more tension than the actual film does. Fair enough – it’s a great trailer and it sells the film well. But it must be said that this is not what you’ll see and experience in the final product, which is a shame.
By the end of this film, there were two adolescent females sitting behind myself and my partner who were loudly, violently sobbing – cries that echoed across the movie theatre. I almost wish I could understand where they were coming from. As aforementioned, the first half of Allied is excellent – a thrilling film-within-a-film, a pure thriller where two kickass spies fight against Nazis set within the colourful and exotic backdrop of Casablanca, Morocco. What follows is a second half that should have felt a lot more suspenseful, and as a result fell flat for me. Although the film is aesthetically beautiful, and Marion Cotillard and Brad Pitt do their best, the film overall scores a solid B minus and is probably worth saving for a television viewing at home.
Is it worth paying for a ticket?: Meh… if you want to take your mum to the movies for her birthday, then yes.
Watch the trailer here.